Kicking Mules validate, verify hot refueling procedures

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  • By 55th Wing Public Affairs

The 95th Reconnaissance Squadron validated and verified recently developed RC-135 hot refueling procedures at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, Aug. 14, 2023.

Hot refueling is when an aircraft is refueled after landing and parking, while also leaving an engine running.

“This was part of a larger system safety engineering analysis process we are going through with Air Force Life Cycle Management Center,” said Capt. Jon Comer, 95th RS maintenance director of operations.

The 95th RS has been working this effort with AFLCMC since November alongside the 100th Air Refueling Wing, who is the host unit at RAF Mildenhall.

The 100th ARW already has an established hot refueling program for their KC-135 Stratotanker fleet, which is a very similar airframe.

“The 100th Maintenance Group has been instrumental in our efforts and getting us to this point in the process, providing us hot refueling training oversight and quality assurance assistance,” Comer said.

Hot refueling not only reduces ground down time and increases reliability, but it can also serve as a force multiplier and force extender.

“As we prepare for the next fight, we must be ready for adversaries to target our main operating bases, therefore necessitating agile combat employment,” said Maj. Joshua Snell, 95th RS mission director.

ACE is a proactive and reactive operational scheme executed within threat timelines to increase survivability while generating combat power.

Hot refueling aids ACE by enabling persistent aircraft mission generation.

“Especially in the first few days of a conflict, it will be required to achieve asset survivability and deliver real-time actionable intelligence for a high-end peer conflict,” Snell said. “Furthermore, the demand for tanker support will surge, straining available resources, which could limit support to our ongoing missions.”

The hot refueling process also saves maintainers a lot of man hours as they do not have to duplicate post-and pre-flight inspections. In addition, it also decreases the amount of aerospace ground equipment needed.

“The RC-135 is not equipped with an aircraft auxiliary power unit, which limits its ability to conduct organic refuel operations without the support of a ground power unit,” Comer said. “Hot refueling operations negates the requirement for this support equipment and would enhance ACE dispersal operations.”

Also involved with the test and validation of the hot refueling process was the Royal Air Force’s 51 Squadron, who operate the RC-135 out of RAF Waddington.

“We are looking at ways of increasing our quick reaction capability for RJ and ACE is the perfect way to do this,” said RAF Flt. Lt. Dan Wilkes, who was the navigator during the test. “Hot pit refuelling will allow us to ‘turn and burn’ the jet in a drastically reduced time and push the aircraft towards its peak performance operationally.”

The two units have built a close relationship since 51 Squadron started flying the 135 about 10 years ago, so this only adds to that ever-growing bond.

“With the work we already do with the 95th RS, it makes sense for us to combine for a whole force effort in using ACE initiatives to get the RJ out the door and operational in austere environments as fast as possible,” Wilkes said.