NAVSUP, CLDJ Fuels Division, mission partners in Africa boost Warfighter readiness with faster fueling capability

US Navy

In response to emergent mission sets and customers’ requirements, Camp Lemonier Djibouti (CLDJ) and Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Sigonella’s (NAVSUP FLCSI) fuels departments coordinated the exchange and transportation of a pantograph allowing Site Djibouti the capability of delivering fuel on the flight line with engines running; otherwise known as “hot pit” refueling. On 15 June 2022, NAVSUP personnel assigned to Site Djibouti fuels department and their mission partners performed the installation’s first “hot pit” refueling evolution with a MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.

In response to emergent mission sets and customers’ requirements, Camp Lemonier Djibouti (CLDJ) and Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Sigonella’s (NAVSUP FLCSI) fuels departments coordinated the exchange and transportation of a pantograph allowing Site Djibouti the capability of delivering fuel on the flight line with engines running; otherwise known as “hot pit” refueling.

A pantograph is a stainless-steel piping mechanism coupled with a fuel hydrant or nozzle to enable direct mobile refueling on airfields. This pantograph can extend the distance between the fuel source and the aircraft, establishing a larger safety arc between the running aircraft, personnel and the fuel.

On 15 June 2022, NAVSUP personnel assigned to Site Djibouti fuels department and their mission partners performed the installation’s first “hot pit” refueling evolution with a MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.

During normal refueling evolutions, aircrafts are fueled “cold” while the engines are shut down, a process that may generate additional maintenance and safety checks resulting in delays before the aircraft is relaunched for a mission.

By contrast, during “hot pit” refueling evolutions, aircraft engines remain on and continue to idle. Because the aircraft remains operational, it can now relaunch immediately after receiving fuel.

“In order for my team to begin performing hot pit refueling evolutions, the pantograph’s hydrant system connections were removed and replaced with D1 nozzle adapters which interoperate with our refueling truck hoses,” said Lt. Nicholas Butler, NAVSUP FLCSI Site Djibouti fuels officer. “Once this was completed, we pressure test to ensure the modified parts create a seal that will prevent fuel from leaking. The duration of a hot pit refueling evolution for a MV-22 is now roughly 10 to 15 minutes per aircraft which is a significant reduction compared to the cold refueling time of 45 minutes.”

For VMM-163, Marine MV-22 squadron – FLCSI Site Djibouti’s primary refueling customer, the importance of “hot pit” refueling to its Aviation Combat Element-Crisis Response-Africa mission is two-fold.

“The ability to keep engines on during refueling is a bigger deal than it may seem at first glance,” said Marine Maj. David ‘”Donny” Tuck VMM-163 (REIN) (Evil Eyes) Executive Officer. “Firstly, “hot pit” refueling enables the rapid turnaround of aircraft during high tempo operations. Being on 24/7 alert for no-fail missions, like a casualty evacuation, means every minute counts, and the difference between success and failure can be a heartbeat.”

Tuck added that the second advantage of “hot pit” refueling for FLCSI’s fuel customers at Site Djibouti is mitigating the wear and tear on aircraft.

“Hot pit refueling helps to minimize the occurrence of unscheduled maintenance,” Tuck said. “Anytime an aircraft is shut down, the restart can result in ‘undefined states’ for the various components, which can often result in unscheduled maintenance actions.”

Prior to performing “hot pit” refueling evolutions, Butler and his team, along with mission partners prepared over several months.

“Because the engines are kept on during “hot pit” refuels, performing this aspect of our mission is considered more dangerous to personnel,” Butler said. “To perform this new mission set safely and correctly, several training evolutions and dry runs were conducted to ensure the success we had this week.”

Site Djibouti’s airfield also needed preparing to allow for “hot pit” refueling evolutions.

NAVSUP FLCSI’s mission partners, like Site Djibouti’s air operations and air safety departments, designated an area that would meet the minimum requirement of 50 feet separating any parked or taxiing aircraft. Additionally, the site was chosen based on the availability of lighting sources for nighttime “hot pit” refueling evolutions.

“For the first time in Site Djibouti history, we can now offer “hot pit” refueling as a capability that will result in enhancing our Warfighters rapid response to emergent mission sets and also increase squadrons’ readiness,” Butler said. “Since commissioning the new hot refueling capability, my team has consistently hot refueled our MV-22 customers almost every day in support of their mission.”

Butler added that this new fueling capability at Site Djibouti does not mean that “cold” refueling evolutions will discontinue.

“Cold refueling will remain our main method of refueling aircraft,” Butler said. “The good news is that by increasing our mission set and relevancy with the “hot pit” refueling capability, NAVSUP FLCSI is now better positioned to support the operational requirements of all of our tenant commands at CLDJ.”

Besides Site Djibouti’s air operations and safety departments, NAVSUP FLCSI’s other mission partners to successfully perform “hot pit” refueling evolutions are the installation’s emergency management officer, fire department, explosive safety officer, and public works.

“We thank FLC Sigonella for giving us the opportunity to provide “hot pit” refueling to our customers onboard CLDJ. The installation is located in a strategic geographic location in the Horn of Africa and we must be ready to act at moment’s notice. “Hot pit” refueling provides just that; the necessary infrastructure to support aircraft faster and better than our world competitors, said Lt. Cmdr. Javier Benabe,” NAVSUP FLCSI Site Djibouti assistant supply officer.

Site Djibouti is one of NAVSUP FLC Sigonella’s six logistics sites strategically located across U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Africa. Through its offices and facilities at Camp Lemonnier, Site Djibouti provides logistics, supply network, and quality-of-life services to U.S. Naval, Joint, and Allied customers throughout the AFRICOM Theater of Operation.

Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti is a forward operating site that supports joint operations, ships, aircraft, and personnel, ensuring security and stability throughout Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia. The base enables maritime and combat operations in the Horn of Africa while fostering positive U.S.-Africa relations and is the only enduring U.S. military base on the African continent. The Department of Defense supports our African partners with capacity building, strengthening defense institutions, and supporting a whole-of-government approach in the region so diplomatic and developmental solutions can take root. Camp Lemonnier is managed by the U.S. Navy and operated by Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Central (EURAFCENT).

Quick Facts

On 15 June 2022, NAVSUP personnel assigned to Site Djibouti fuels department and their mission partners performed the installation’s first “hot pit” refueling evolution with a MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.

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