920th Rescue Wing executes first joint high-speed, air-to-air refuel
By Master Sgt Kelly Goonan, 920th Rescue Wing
/ Published February 24, 2021
PATRICK SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Testing the capabilities of the HC-130J Combat King II aircraft, the 39th Rescue Squadron made history after successfully completing their first ever high-speed air-to-air refuel with Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft Feb. 23.
“Traditionally, these F-18’s receive their aerial refuel from the KC-130,” a 39th RQS pilot said. “This was the first time our squadron connected with Marine Corps fighters for refueling and it was a first for the Marines to connect with any Air Force asset.”
F-18’s require more fuel to conduct their training which presents unique variables to the 39th’s local training.
“We must be able to provide fuel faster than these jets are burning it,” the pilot said. “That requires a different system than what we use to refuel our HH-60’s.”
That neither unit had any previous experience with each other’s branch in high-speed AAR speaks volumes to the joint standard the pilot explained. The mission was completed without any issues and brought back valuable lessons learned for future operations with these aircraft.
“What this ultimately means for the 39th is that we’ll be able to incorporate more high-speed AAR training on the backend of our other AAR sorties with the KC-135,” the pilot said. “The concept being that the 39th connects with and fills with fuel from a KC-135 and then we deliver that fuel to a denied area that might prohibit other tanker aircraft to successfully enter into, and pass that fuel to the fighters that need it to continue their missions.”
The completion of this milestone supports joint-service interoperability and enhances the success of military operations worldwide. This HC-130J capability increases available assets to conduct operations jointly where other aircraft may not be available, allowing the mission to continue unhindered.
The HC-130J is a modified KC-130J aircraft designed to conduct personnel recovery missions, provide a command and control platform, in-flight-refuel helicopters and carry supplemental fuel for extending range or air refueling. The aircraft is a result of the HC/MC-130 recapitalization program and replaced the HC-130P/N fleet as the dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform in the Air Force inventory.