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Innovating airmen use equipment from the 1950s to quickly refuel F-35s

What is old is new again.

The 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho is employing old equipment from the 1950s to quickly refuel the F-35 Lightning II.

The so-called Gunfighters are the first Air Force squadron to utilize a Type 1 hydrant system from the 1950s with hose carts from the 1970s that hook up to 500,000 gallon tanks during hot-pit refueling of the F-35s. Using the equipment means the squadron can “virtually endlessly” refuel the aircraft and do so efficiently.

“Our old equipment is persisting and performing up to the hot-pits gold standard of 13 minute turnarounds,” said Tech Sgt. Zachary J. Kiniry, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 366th LRS fuels service center, according to an Air Force news release.

“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.

Hot-pit refueling means that the aircraft is refueled and takes off again while the engine remains on, and can occur under 15 minutes in the best circumstances. In contrast, standard refueling could take more than 2 hours.

According to Kiniry, the squadron first tested out eight R-11 refueling trucks, each containing 6,000 gallons, to refuel the F-35s during hot-pits. But the process was time consuming for several reasons, including that one of the refueling tanks can only refuel two jets and was causing heavy traffic.

“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 in the news release.

Meanwhile, the new hot-pit routine allows the Gunfighters to run hot-pits nonstop and also saves time between refueling each F-35 because it eliminates preparing another R11.

“We have learned through continual improvement, experimentation and innovation how to enhance readiness and keep airmen safe, regardless of what tools we are given,” Kiniry said.

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