Royal Air Force launches F-35B forward refueling demonstration

For the first time, the Fuel Support Team from 1 Expeditionary Logistics Squadron (ELS) has completed a successful forward refueling operation of an F-35 Lightning jet. To equip the Lightning Force for deployments in remote locations without permanent fuel infrastructure, the team used a deployable fuel system. 


This capability trial is a significant part of the Royal Air Force's Agile Combat Employment (ACE) strategy, which focuses on the ability to refuel and re-arm aircraft in austere locations, stationed at RAF Wittering, is responsible for ensuring that the Royal Air Force is adequate equipment and fuel during deployed air operations. 


Flight Lieutenant Woodhouse, Officer Commanding Fuels, 1 ELS, emphasized the importance of the trial, noting that "we can set up a system in six hours from a standing start and take fuel from an A400 Atlas to refuel jets at a deployed location. This is a two-way learning experience. We're preparing for further deployments with F-35 in austere locations." During the trial, fuel technicians installed a 10,000-liter bladder capable of transferring fuel at a rate of 400 liters per minute. 


After checking the fuel's purity, they successfully refueled an F-35 with its engine running upon its return from a training sortie. This capability trial promotes the development of ACE, which aims to enhance operational flexibility by allowing air forces to operate from a variety of bases, including those with minimal infrastructure, thereby improving the ability to quickly maneuver combat capabilities across different theatres.

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