AL UDEID AIR BASE, QATAR –
In a joint effort to implement agile combat employment, F-15E Strike Eagle maintainers from the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing conducted hot-pit training and aircraft arresting system certification with deployed members from the 379th AEW, Aug. 23 and 28, 2020, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
The training, which enhanced mission capabilities for mobile distribution operators from the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron for hot pitting and 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers for AAS certification, enables fighter aircraft to use Al Udeid as a hub to receive fuel quicker and the capability to stop a malfunctioning aircraft upon landing or takeoff.
“Certifying the arresting cables and training 379th AEW Airmen to hot-pit the Strike Eagle provides leaders from the [U.S. Central Command] commander all the way to individual aircraft commanders launch and recovery options in a variety of possible scenarios ranging from regional exercises to combat operations,” said Col. Ernesto Divittorio, 332nd AEW vice commander.
According to Capt. Cole Hoopingarner, 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Group maintenance operations officer in charge, hot pitting speeds up the time needed to get an aircraft back in the air.
“Hot refueling is the transfer of fuel into an aircraft with one or more engines running. This capability improves the reliability of aircraft systems and mission capable time since we are less frequently shutting down/restarting systems,” he said.
In 2013, portions of AUAB’s flight line were certified for hot refueling; however, a new team is completing a site survey and certifying new portions of the airfield.
“Survivability and providing the warfighter with minimum aircraft down time to ‘get back in the fight’ are the main reasons why,” Hoopingarner explained. “Having multiple hot refueling sites throughout the AUAB airfield gives the warfighter more hot refueling options if a portion of the airfield was inoperable or unusable.”
The training also afforded members of the 379th EAMXS to practice and certify Al Udeid’s AAS, also referred to as barrier, capabilities.
“The ‘barrier’ is actually called and Aircraft Arresting System that is similar to the steel cables on a [U.S. Navy] aircraft carrier,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matt Castillo, 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron facility systems superintendent. “That Navy system uses steam or more recently magnetism to launch and recover aircraft. The USAF system(s) use a variety of engineering methods to engage an aircraft that cannot stop safely on its own power. The basic concept is that of an energy absorber.”
Inspected every day by the 379th ECES, the AAS activates a steel cable, which will catch an aircraft that is tail hook equipped and unable to stop on its own.
Divittorio explained, that both capabilities allow the U.S. Air Force to develop as a total force.
“The U.S. Air Force continues to refine its expeditionary mindset and the development of Airmen and squadrons that deliver decisive effects while operating with a smaller footprint, capable of relocating rapidly,” he said. “We call it Agile Combat Employment, or ACE, and the capability puts our adversaries on notice – we will not be a stationary target.”
He also stated, the capabilities allow the U.S. to work closer with our coalition partners.
“The ability to deploy, and employ, U.S. and coalition aircraft from multiple bases in the theater complicates our adversaries’ targeting calculus,” Divittorio continued. “Another important reason for having the ability to conduct Strike Eagle hot-pit operations out of Al Udeid is the opportunity to drop-in and train with our close partners, the Qataris, whose own Qatar Emiri Air Force will soon fly the newest variant of the Strike Eagle, the F-15QA.”
The 332nd conducted the training at Al Udeid in conjunction with a two-day U.S. Air Forces Central Command bi-lateral key leader engagement called the Qatar-AFCENT Friendship Event from Aug. 23 and 24, which brought together members of the 379th AEW and the 332nd AEW with the Qatar Emiri Air Force for an F-15E familiarization flight.