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Wet-wing missions fuel austere U.S. bases in Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Divine Cox
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing

The 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron recently completed a wet-wing defuel, which enables the C-130J Super Hercules crews to rapidly deliver fuel to austere forward operating bases throughout Afghanistan.

According to Capt. Caitlin Curran, 774th EAS tactics chief, a wet-wing defuel is traditionally a special operations forces mission, but by training mobility air force C-130J crews in this capability as well as hot refueling, conventional forces augment limited SOF resources.

During these missions, the aircraft will land and keep all four engines running. On-site ground crews then transfer fuel from the wings of the C-130J to either another aircraft or to a fuel truck.

The frequency that the 774th EAS conducts the refuels depends on user requirements

 “In one week, we delivered 250,000 lbs. of fuel for a specific mission,” said Curran.

Historically-speaking, wet-wing defueling missions were not standard daily lines, Curran added; however, the 774th EAS has employed the capability 350% more in the last year.

The purpose of the wet-wing mission is to deliver fuel to a user for air operations at a FOB that does not have an established fuel storage facility.

If the user needs to build up a presence at a FOB for ongoing Operation Freedom’s Sentinel or NATO’s Resolute Support operations, they need to also plan for and establish the required logistical support.

A significant piece to that logistical support plan includes how much fuel is required for the operation and how the user will receive the fuel.

Curran stated that there are several methods by which a user can receive fuel for operations.

“The first way fuel can be received for operations are contract fuel via a ground convoy,” said Curran. “Contract fuel via a ground convoy is the preferred method when the route supports it, but generating a contract takes time and not all routes support a ground convoy.

“Fuel can also be received through a wet-wing defuel to an approved fuel system such as the R-11 fuel truck. You can also airdrop fuel as well as perform aircraft-to-aircraft fueling.”

The 774th EAS C-130J crews are qualified to defuel into an approved fuel system as well as to airdrop fuel.

According to Curran, depending on the proximity of a refueling location, the C-130J can deliver about 30,000 lbs. of fuel at a time.

“With the drawdown of forces across theater, there are limited hubs from where aircraft can receive fuel,” said Curran. The wet-wing defueling mission makes up for the lack of infrastructure, allowing the user to utilize critical resources and keep the mission going.”