MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- An EA-6B Prowler from Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 taxied into the hot refueling pits aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, July 22, 2015, for the first time in history.
The Prowlers, stationed aboard MCAS Cherry Point, N.C., are in Iwakuni in support of the unit deployment program until August. The aircraft have refueled on the air station for the duration of their UDP, but were unable to utilize the hot pits before because of their size.
Hot pits are refueling stations usually used in combat to rapidly refuel aircraft while the engines are running. This allows aircraft to return to the fight with minimal delay.
Staff Sgt. Jesus Granados, operations chief of the station fuels division, said U.S. Naval Air System Command regulations do not allow aircraft as big as a Prowler to use the hot pits because of safety concerns. The hot pits only accommodate for a wing span of 50 feet. Prowlers have a wing span of 53 feet.
After deeming the pits safe with enough clearance to host a Prowler, NAVAIR approved a waiver making it possible for the Prowlers to use the hot pits to refuel for the first time.
“This was a little bit different than the usual refueling because the aircraft is so big,” said Raoul Bolduc, fuels distribution operator and hot pit supervisor aboard station. “It carries a little more risk of injury, but it’s much faster and more efficient to refuel this way.”
The efficiency of using the hot pits to refuel enables the EA-6B Prowler to accomplish its mission, which is to suppress enemy air defense in support of strike aircraft and ground troops.
“Allowing the Prowlers to use the hot pits reduces the wear and tear of the fuel trucks,” said Garnados. “The MK31 and M-970 refuel trucks are tactical vehicles made for tactical scenarios and deployments. Being used on a daily basis to refuel the Prowlers causes unnecessary and costly wear and tear on the equipment.”
Bolduc said when the aircraft land they can go straight into the hot refueling pits. It only took 13 minutes to refuel the Prowler, allowing them to get back in the air with little delay.
After a successful refueling, Bolduc said the crew did a good job. It was the first time for these pilots to use Iwakuni’s hot refueling pits as well and everything went smoothly.
Editor’s note: A paragraph was added Aug. 27, 2015, to clarify what a hot refueling pit is.