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Capability trial for forward refuelling of the F-35B aircraft

The Fuel Support Team from 1 Expeditionary Logistics Squadron (ELS) have refuelled an F-35 Lightning jet using a deployable fuel system for the first time.

Setting up for refuelling

The ability to refuel and re-arm aircraft at austere locations is a core element of Agile Combat Employment (ACE). Based at RAF Wittering 1 ELS supports the UK's deployed air operations making sure the Royal Air Force has the correct equipment and fuel, when and where needed.

Refuelling the F-35

The capability trial by the RAF’s fixed wing fuel specialists prepares the Lightning Force for deployments into austere locations where permanent fuel structures are unavailable.

“From a standing start we can set up a system in six hours. At a deployed location we could take fuel from an A400 Atlas and then transfer it to refuel jets. 
This is a two-way learning experience. From our point of view this is a capability trial, we’re preparing for further deployments with F-35 in austere locations. The F-35 team learn how we can provide a Forward Arming and Refuelling Point (FARP) and support them without a permanent fuel structure, it’s about minimal footprint of both infrastructure and personnel.”

Flight Lieutenant Woodhouse
Officer Commanding Fuels, 1 ELS

For the trial, fuels technicians set up a 10,000 litre bladder capable of transferring fuel at the rate of 400 litres per minute. Following a number of checks to ensure there were no impurities, an F-35 was refuelled with its engine running on return from a training sortie.

Testing the fuel

This trial supports the RAF development of ACE, an operational concept of being able to operate from austere locations in order to disperse and quickly manoeuvre combat capability throughout a theatre. Supported by a minimal presence on the ground to provide support activities, ACE expands the number of bases from which air forces can generate combat sorties.