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US Air Force demonstrates new refueling techniques at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst

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The US Air Force is changing the way it operates its tanker fleet. This comes amid new challenges from China and Russia.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst held a demonstration on Tuesday showing new techniques that keep planes on the ground for less time when in combat zones.

“We are constantly looking to do things better, faster and more efficiently,” said Major Eric “Rebel” Emerson.

A New Jersey Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon flew from Atlantic City to Burlington County as part of the protest. Flight time was five minutes. Emerson was in charge.

“I’ve been to Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Syria, the Horn of Africa,” he says.

If the plane needs a refuel in the sky after a flight or a long patrol, Emerson can turn to one of the Air Force’s KC-135 Stratotankers for fuel.

But who fills up the flying gas station?

“My personal opinion: we are the elite tanker group,” says Sgt. Herbert Grant.

On Tuesday, members of the 141st Air Refueling Squadron and 108th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron gathered to train and demonstrate a new technique that can keep Air Force tankers that enable aerial refueling around the world whole safer and more efficient.

During a typical refueling, all engines are shut down. But leaving one engine running reduces refueling time from five hours to one hour, which is essential in a potential combat situation.

“We could take off a lot faster, so by doing that we would have a better chance of landing somewhere and getting back in the air in a hostile environment,” explains the technical sergeant. James Kirchofer.

“It increases our survivability by reducing the time it takes to take off in the event of incoming missiles,” says Lt. Col. Matthew Brito.

So-called “hot pit refueling” is part of a larger Air Force strategy that the Pentagon has dubbed “Agile Combat Employment.” Service members tested it recently during a training exercise at an air base in Puerto Rico.

“They’re used to seeing big planes take off at two-minute intervals,” says Brito. “We did it in just over 10 seconds.”

The next deployment of the KC-135 tankers will be in the Western Pacific Ocean.