MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho — The F-35s at Hill Air Force Base represent the newest technology the Department of Defense can employ.
But while the jets are temporarily flying away from the confines of the Wasatch Front, decades old equipment is helping to keep them in the air.
For much of the summer, portions of Hill’s F-35 team is flying out of an air base in Idaho while Hill’s home runway undergoes a $43.6 million repair and expansion. Earlier this summer, Hill’s 34th Fighter Squadron and 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit moved their F-35A Lightning II operations to Mountain Home Air Force Base, nearly 300 miles northwest of Hill.
The group includes more than 250 airmen from the 388th and 419th fighter wings and 24 of the base’s F-35s. The outfit is scheduled to occupy Mountain Home until early August, when the current phase of runway construction is set to be complete.
While at Mountain Home, the squadron is conducting normal operations and flying with other Air Force units. The group flies every weekday that isn’t a holiday or scheduled down day, with the majority of the flying taking place around Mountain Home and a nearby training range.
According to an Air Force press release, airmen from Mountain Home’s 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron are performing what is known as “hot-pit” refueling on Hill’s F-35s with a hydrant system from the 1950s and a hose cart from the 1970s.
The procedure involves refueling the jet without turning off the engine, Senior Airman Christian Cook said in the release, different from the traditional refueling where the engine is killed.
The refueling method saves time and therefore, money, according to the Air Force, but the Mountain Home group was using eight refueling trucks that held only 6,000 gallons of fuel each, an amount capable of filling only two jets.
The process was taking up too many resources and creating traffic on the flightline, so the group brought out the old equipment. The old fuel hydrants and hose carts are connected to 500,000 gallon tanks, allowing for a virtually endlessly refuel supply, the release says. With the new process, crews can run the refueling procedure 24-hours a day, seven days a week and Mountain Home has reallocated the previously used fuel trucks to other missions.
“Our old equipment is persisting and performing,” said Tech. Sgt. Zachary Kiniry, with 366th LRS. “(We’re) proving that we can still fuel F-35 aircraft right off the production line with some of the oldest equipment.”