McConnell Airmen practice ACE, Aeromedical Evacuation at Kadena

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Felicia Przydzial
  • 22 Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Thirteen Airmen from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, traveled to Japan to conduct an offsite training event with the KC-46A Pegasus from Oct. 11-15, 2022.

The training, focused in the Indo-Pacific region, highlighted Agile Combat Employment initiatives including aeromedical evacuation and hot pit refueling.

“Agile Combat Employment is a proactive scheming maneuver,” said MSgt. Trevor Kuhns, 22nd Operations Support Squadron ACE program lead. “For decades we’ve been operating in a CENTCOM model at heavily established, highly capable bases that can do a lot of great things. To be able to succeed and to project power forward as we need to for this next fight, we need to be more adaptable, more mobile, faster and more lethal. It’s important for us to practice with our partners out here. We want to practice like we would play and work with the experts in the area that are already working in the environment and understand the threats of the environment. Getting those repetitions in and getting familiar with operating in this area is good for our crews, good for Kadena and good for the Indo-Pacific.”

Kadena Air Base is the first base in the Pacific Air Force’s major command to have hot pit refueling sites certified for the KC-46A Pegasus and to have a permanent site survey in place. Other bases in the command, such as Yokota Air Base, Japan and Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, are in the process of creating these sites.

Hot pit refueling is the fueling of an aircraft with at least one engine running. Hot pit refueling increases an aircraft’s reliability and allows pilots to cut down on time that would be spent on the ground turning off the engines and then turning them back on once the plane has the desired amount of fuel.

“We are trying to spend minimal time on the ground,” said Maj. Ryan Robinson, 22nd Operations Support Squadron deputy of wing tactics. “We are trying to land, gas up and take off as fast as we can to either generate more sorties or stay out of front areas. It is a capability that we have been asked to do in a lot of exercises. Now that we are able to do it at different bases it opens up more options for us when it comes to higher headquarters missions or local exercises.”

Some Airmen met and talked with the creator of the Versatile Integrating Partner Equipment Refueling Kit, MSgt. Jason Yunker, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron chief of fuels operations. The “VIPER” Kit is an adaptor that allows crews to use partner nation equipment to perform hot pit refueling operations on American military aircraft. The kit ensures the fuel source meets the pressure requirements to onload fuel onto the aircraft.

“It opens up the opportunity for us to be able to hot pit refuel pretty much anywhere in the world,” said Yunker.

Yunker came up with the idea for the “VIPER” Kit during a deployment to Iceland with NATO in 2019. Air Force Global Strike Command had reached out and wanted to land and hot pit refuel a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. Due to the refueling pits in Iceland not producing enough pressure to refuel the, they had to fly out two fuel trucks costing about $1 million. Yunker then had to deploy back to Iceland a second time to retrieve the trucks because the trucks.

The Viper Kit also has a partner called Project Venom. Project Venom is an additive injection readiness spares package that can add the missing additives to civilian jet fuel so that the fuel can be used in military aircraft. Project Venom is a low-cost version of its current commercially produced counterpart. Project Venom costs about $9,500 to produce, while its commercial counterpart costs about $65,000 to buy.

The Airmen also partnered with the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron for medical evacuation training on the KC-46A Pegasus. The 18th AES joined in on a two-and-half-hour flight to learn more about the aircraft and simulate the medical evacuation process.

“Not a lot of us are familiar with the KC-46, but this is an aircraft that we can do a basic medical evacuation,” said Capt. Milan Tandoc, 18th AES flight nurse. “Usually, our aircraft that we use out here at Kadena is a KC-135. The KC-46 has integral aeromedical evacuation equipment that is part of the aircraft which is why all we have to do is load our equipment.”

The KC-46A Pegasus is equipped with two sets of litter stanchions for patients on stretchers to be placed for monitoring, electrical outlets for medical instruments, oxygen tanks, and a brightly lit cargo area.

Once a doctor has determined that a patient needs to be evacuated for a higher level of care, they will talk to a flight surgeon, who will contact PACAF headquarters to see if a patient can be evacuated. In the meantime, the doctor will stabilize the patient if they are not already stable. Once the evacuation has been approved by headquarters and the patient has been determined stable, an aeromedical evacuation squadron is notified and sent out to evacuate the patient.

“We are grateful for their partnership, so we can execute and train some of their people while also giving a chance to some of our people to learn what is going on here out in the Pacific, specifically Kadena,” said Kuhns.