Monday, 24 January 2011

Where Fuel Comes From

It is not difficult to get the impression that some people think that aircraft fuel appears at an air base with the wave of a magic wand.

In most parts of the World the reality is that air bases,in one way or another,rely on ships to deliver fuel.

If the navy can't protect those ships,the air force can't fly it's planes.

Without aircraft carriers,the navy can't protect those ships.

The difficulty of keeping air bases supplied with fuel was emphasised by tanker Ohio breaking through the siege of Malta at the end of Operation Pedestal.

The importance of sea based logistics to air power is also emphasised in lots of very long and dull documents.

However,someone has summed it up in a far more succinct manner with these comments on aerial refuelling.

The Author,Mark Hasara,introduced himself with the following line:


As the Chief of the Air Refueling Control Team for both air campaigns in Afghanistan (2002) and Iraq (2002-2003)"

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Hasara is obviously a man who knows a great deal about putting fuel in to aircraft.

This is a short extract from what he had to say about the logistics of operations in Iraq in 2003:

"Fuel resupply and storage has not been talked about much.

Every one talks about how big an airframe is and so forth.

It is important but if I cannot get gas into the base then it cannot support long endurance tanker ops tempos.


We had a 4 kilometer long line of 8500 gallon fuel trucks waiting to get on one base to fill one tank farm at one base back up.

We used it all in 3 days and had to do it again.

We had Super Tankers (ST’s) in the Persian Gulf to keep one place full and they pumped it straight from the ST's to the base.

20 KC-10s were flying 38 sorties with 320,000 pound fuel loads.

That is 1.87 million gallons just to fly the KC-10 lines of an ATO at one base."

Some sources say there may have been as many as 14 tanker bases used during that operation.

The immense scale of logistical support can be imagined.

We briefly discussed the costs of convoys of fuel trucks in another post.

The cost of air based logistics was also covered in an earlier post.

Even when aircraft are flying from bases on top of the World's largest oil fields,they still depend on ships to bring them fuel.

It doesn't matter how quickly an aircraft can deploy,without fuel it can't do anything useful when it gets there.

To deliver the fuel will probably require tanker ships.

Those ships will need a navy to protect them.

1 comment:

steve said...

Refining capacity is important too. You don't have to blockade tankers just hit the "cracking towers."

Iran may be an oil exporter but has to import distilled fuel.