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The US Air Force’s (USAF) 18th Wing has conducted the hot-pit style refuelling with a KC-135 Stratotanker at Kadence Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

The hot pit refuelling exercise maximises agile combat employment (ACE).

The event was conducted in the Pacific Air Forces’ (PACAF) area of responsibility for the first time, reported technical sergeant Micaiah Anthony.

USAF’s KC-135 refuelling aircraft is capable of transferring up to 200,000lb of fuel in the air.

The Stratotanker can completely refill aircraft such as 16.5 F-16 Fighting Falcons aircraft with two external fuel tanks.

USAF 909th Air Refueling Squadron evaluator and instructor pilot captain John Della Pia said: “Air refuelling a fighter aircraft allows them to maximize their capabilities over time as a force multiplier and to establish air superiority.

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“Increasing the KC-135’s air refuelling capacity by hot-pit refuelling further enables the projection of airpower, the reach of air superiority and in doing so increases agile combat employment.”

The hot pit technique of refuelling also increases reliability by removing the downtime and reducing the aerospace ground equipment’s footprint.

During the hot pit style, fuel can be transferred without turning down the aircraft’s engine, which saves time between sorties by skipping post-flight and pre-fight inspections.

Della Pia added: “It maximises efficiency in man-hours to generate a sortie. The process enables a single aircrew to fly multiple air refuelling sorties on each duty day.

“Strictly with respect to a KC-135 sortie generation, it reduces the timeline by more than 69%.”

In 2020, the USAF installed Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) on its KC-135 Stratotanker fleet.