As a KC-135 Stratotanker turns to approach Prince Sultan Air Base, the 378th Air Expeditionary Logistics Squadron Fuels Flight has prepared a different, more effective way to “gas-and-go” the massive refueling aircraft.
Just 48 hours before the KC-135 from the 349th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron left Al Udeid Air Base to conduct refueling missions in the region, the 378th ELRS was given a task: To develop, build and sustain a rapid refueling capability at Prince Sultan Air Base. That’s exactly what they did.
“Our squadron, the 378th ELRS, was tasked to set up an R-20 refueling station and the fuels team took action immediately. It required coordination with the 378th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron and Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron to make this happen and the support that we received was amazing,” said Senior Master Sgt. Basye, 378th ELRS fuels superintendent. “With a team of about 20 Airmen, we laid roughly 500 to 600 sandbags and 1,700 feet of hose line, which led to the R-20 being operational.”
Then, on July 14, with the equipment prepared and the installation plan completed, the 349th EARS and 44th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, having aircraft in the region, were selected as the proof-of-concept units to precisely demonstrate the capability.
“We (the crew) were in the region on mission. Once we accomplished our mission, we landed at Prince Sultan Air Base, refueled and turned for another mission,” said 1st Lt. McDaniel, 349th EARS, KC-135 Stratotanker pilot. “With the rapid refueling process, it was a lot faster. We took 85,000 pounds of fuel in less than an hour. This will allow us to get off the ground, provide the fueling capability in the (area of responsibility) and sustain combat operations.”
The new capability provided by the 378th ELRS paralleled with the 378th Expeditionary Operations Group’s rapid fighter jet launches and integrated combat turn process, makes Prince Sultan AB a very agile, combat-ready location for U.S. Central Command to deploy and redeploy aircraft to the region. It is a vital force multiplier while significantly reducing logistics, manpower and, most importantly, translates into agile combat employment.
“This refueling capability shortens the ground and servicing time for a large aircraft, and we wanted to test this capability concept in the austere environment. Every minute on the ground is a minute the aircraft is not conducting its critical air-refueling mission. For fighters in particular, that air-air refueling is vital,” said Col. Hurrelbrink, 378th EOG commander. “We wanted to demonstrate an expedited refuel capability (rapid refuel) of a large aircraft and that Prince Sultan has the capability to rapidly turn tankers on the ground so the aircraft can return to the fight to provide fuel to U.S. and coalition partners.”
With the cooperation of several units varied across a wide range of responsibilities, the 378th AEW has a new, proven capability that CENTCOM can use in the region.
“This rapid refuel quantifiably proved that the turn time for a large aircraft could be greatly reduced. Plus, we accomplished it in an expeditionary, hot, sandy and austere environment,” Hurrelbrink continued. “The success today has also set the stage for future iterations using multiple aircraft simultaneously refueling, servicing and conducting follow-on missions. Our plan is to capitalize on today’s success and further mature our capabilities.”