In a simulated exercise, US Air Force refueled a tank for the US Army

This could help supply fuel in extremely remote locations too in the future.
Ameya Paleja
The hot pitting of M1 Abrams Tank
The hot pitting of M1 Abrams Tank


The U.S. Air Force has successfully simulated the use of its C-130J Super Hercules aircraft to refuel the Army's M1 Abrams tank, a military press release said. The refueling exercise carried through the cooperation of two different wings of the military was unique in one more way. The engines of the C-130J were still running while the refueling simulation was attempted.

The exercise was carried out at Fort Bliss in Texas on December 9th and included members of the 1st Armored Division for the U.S. Army and the 40th Airlift Squadron of the U.S. Air Force. While the army unit is based at Fort Bliss, the Air Force Squadron is stationed at the Dyess Air Force Base in the same state.

During the drill, the units used an Emergency Response Refueling Equipment Kit (ERREK), a device described by the U.S. Air Force as specialized fueling equipment that can be used for a 'hot-pit' refueling.

In a simulated exercise, US Air Force refueled a tank for the US Army
The ERREK in action

What is hot pitting?

In aviation parlance, hot pitting is refueling an aircraft when its engines are still running. Performed only for military applications, this allows aircraft to be refueled and turned around quickly. During this process, even weapons can be replenished, or the aircraft crew can be swapped. This can be critical in times of crisis or war, where sortie generation rate is important and valuable time might be lost in switching off and switching on the aircraft's engines.

The C-130J Hercules is a transport aircraft, and using it for refueling purposes is not very new. However, prior to this, the aircraft has been used to refuel other aircraft, and this might just be the first time it has been used to refuel an army tank.

In a simulated exercise, US Air Force refueled a tank for the US Army
The refueling dry run for the M1 Abrams

Why does the M1 Abrams need refueling?

Tanks are notorious fuel guzzlers and the M1 Abrams is one of the least fuel-efficient vehicles on the planet. According to The Drive, the M1 travels not more than 0.6 miles on a gallon of gas, and even though it has the capacity to hold 500 gallons of fuel, it can not get more than 300 miles on a full tank.

The M1 can use different types of fuel to run itself and the Army is now also considering powering it using a hybrid power plant. Nevertheless, among the tanks, the M1 needs to be supplied with fuel the most, and the recent exercise could help ensure that it remains functional even in the remotest of locations.

While C-130Js have carried fuel for tanks before, the direct refueling during a hot pit could help the Army become more adventurous in its exploits, backed by the agility of the Air Force. Since the recent exercise was just a simulation or a dry run, we can expect a wet run to be completed in the coming year and hope to learn more about the ERREK device used for this process.

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