AL ASAD, Iraq -- KC-130Js, the gas stations of the sky, provides aircraft with their normal dose of fuel far above the reach of the enemy.
The “Raiders” from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 (Reinforced) provide AR support to Marine aircraft during close air support missions.
Aerial refueling is conducted to save time. Aircraft with fuel probes are able to refuel from KC-130Js in the sky right before they begin their mission, extending their on-mission time.
“It takes about 20 total minutes for a refueling evolution,” said Sgt. Caleb S. Naumann, a KC-130J crew chief with ‘352. “That’s only 20 total minutes away from helping the guys on the ground. If they try refueling at Al Asad, the total time it would take the aircraft to refuel is about an hour. So, we’re saving them approximately 40 minutes.”
When an aircraft is scheduled for AR it must follow certain protocol, according to Naumann, a Crystal Beach, Fla., native. The aircraft scheduled to AR checks in with the KC-130J plane commander. Once the aircraft rendezvous with the Hercules, the aircraft set to refuel moves into its observation position making sure its ordnance is secure. Then, the receiving aircraft moves into the receiving position, waiting to dock. At this point, the plane commander gives the aircraft permission to make contact and begin refueling. Afterwards, the receiving aircraft moves to the right of the KC-130J to reform, re-arm, and move out.
All of ‘352s missions are focused on supporting other units or aircraft. Aerial refueling is one of the primary missions conducted by the fleet of KC-130Js, but they are also used for troop transportation and “angel” missions.
“When we fly an ‘angel,’ we are carrying military personnel that paid the ultimate sacrifice while in Iraq, serving their country,” said Capt. Richard Southworth, a C-130 pilot with ‘352. “Mortuary Affairs lets us know that there is an ‘angel’ to be picked up and we have 24 hours to take the body out of country.”
In addition to aerial refueling and “angel” missions, ‘352 provides pre-mission refueling.
Since a large portion of fuel is spent during take-off, most military attack aircraft are limited in range and length of time spent on missions. A Hercules can provide post take-off refueling and the refueled aircraft can spend more time in the air.
“We provide pre-mission fuel to aircraft which doubles or triples an aircrafts on-mission time,” said Naumann. “Our primary mission is to make sure our guys on the ground have jets overhead.”