Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY TACTICAL
Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka

Gunfighters use 1950s tech on F-35 for a huge win

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)

'Things aren't made the way they used to be' is a sentiment often tossed around when a new car or appliance breaks down. Even with all the new inventions and integrated technology there's something to be said about the simplicity of an original design. Mountain Home Air Force Base members are learning this lesson firsthand.

Airmen from the 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron, also known as Gunfighters, are the first in the Air Force to perform hot-pit refueling on F-35 Lightning II's with a Type 1 hydrant system from the 1950s and hose cart from the 1970s.

A hot-pit is when a plane lands, refuels then takes off again without turning off the engine, explains Senior Airman Christian Cook, 366th LRS fuels operator. The typical refueling procedure consists of landing, turning off the engine and a laundry list of to-do's.


Traditional refueling takes upwards of 2 hours while the hot-pit gold standard takes 13 minutes, which translates to huge monetary saving.

During hot-pits, Gunfighters initially used eight R-11 refueling trucks that hold 6,000 gallons of fuel each. One R-11 is only capable of refueling two jets and requires a new truck to come out with additional fuel to meet the demands of the mission, said Tech. Sgt. Zachary J. Kiniry, 366th LRS fuels service center noncommissioned officer in charge.

Senior Airman Michael Rogers, 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician, and Senior Airman Christian Cook, 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels operator, performs a hot-pits refueling with a hose cart from the 1970s on an F-35 Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, June 20, 2019, at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)

"This method is not time-efficient, ties up 50 percent of the base's R-11's and associated personnel and creates traffic on an active flightline that could pose a safety hazard," Kiniry said.

His team realized that more moving parts was not the answer, Kiniry said. With a new, simplified approach they found a resourceful solution in using older-generation equipment to better complete the mission.

Now, Gunfighters use a Type 1 hydrant system from the 1950s and hose carts from the 1970s directly connected to 500,000 gallon tanks, allowing Gunfighters to virtually endlessly refuel F-35s.

"Our old equipment is persisting and performing up to the hot-pits gold standard of 13 minute turnarounds," Kiniry said.

With this new process, Gunfighters have the capability to run hot-pits 24/7, saving 15 minutes between every other F-35 that was previously needed to set up a new R-11.

F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham)

"We have eliminated safety concerns from the heavy traffic on the flightline and reallocated eight R-11's with their associated personnel to perform the rest of the mission outside of hot-pits," Cooks explained.

Gunfighters are continuing their legacy of excellence and are an example how flexibility is the key to air power.

"Mountain Home Air Force Base is proving that we can still fuel F-35 aircraft right off the production line with some of the oldest equipment at unheard of turnaround times," Kiniry said.

"We have learned through continual improvement, experimentation and innovation how to enhance readiness and keep Airmen safe, regardless of what tools we are given."

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.