A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules aircraft conducted a hot-pit refuel of a pair of F-22 Raptor fighter jets using an Aerial Bulk Fuel Delivery System (ABFDS) on Nov. 24 at Koror Palau International Airport.
According to the Air Expeditionary Force Fuels Management Pocket Guide, ABFDS is an aerial, fuels-delivery system that enables aircraft to transport fuel rapidly to locations close to or behind enemy lines. This system is normally installed on C-130s but can be also used on C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifters.
“Hot-pit refueling operations using ABFDS are relatively new,” said Chief Master Sgt. Steve McClure, Pacific Air Forces command fuels functional manager. “The primary design of the ABFDS system is to refuel or to take bulk fuel to bladders in a contingency location. It has the capability to refuel aircraft and always has, but we’ve stepped that up with [agile combat employment].”
According to an Air Force statement, this mission was one of a series of operations associated with Westpac, a dynamic force employment of the 94th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM)’s area of responsibility. The 94th EFS is deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam from the 1st Fighter Wing based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
The Aerial Bulk Fuel Delivery System consists of two, 3,000-gallon aerial bladder tanks, two pumping modules, a meter and hoses. It is also capable of delivering 600 gallons per minute with one pump or 1,200 gallons per minute with both pumps.
This is the second time C-130s from the 36th Airlift Squadron, 374th Airlift Wing based at Yokota Air Base, Japan, have hot-pit refueled F-22 Raptors using ABFDS. The first time was during Valiant Shield 20, a biennial, U.S. only, joint field training exercise at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in September.
ABFDS supports PACAF’s ACE concept, which envisions the use of agile operations to generate resilient airpower in a contested environment. Should pilots find themselves running out of fuel and they cannot land at the airfield they departed from because it’s under attack or has battle damage, the pilots can divert to a different location knowing they can get refueled.
Being able to get fuel to places in the USINDOPACOM theater of operations is important due to its size. The command’s area of responsibility is more than 100 million square miles, or roughly 52 percent of the Earth’s surface, stretching from the west coast of the United States the west coast of India, and from the Artic to the Antarctic, making this an important capability.
ABFDS has been used in other USINDOPACOM exercises and to rotate U-2 Dragon Lady high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft in and out of South Korea. The system was also loaded onto Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17s and used to refuel a C-130 during Artic Ace 2018.