The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) has conducted its first “hot-pit” refuelling with the Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter, as it works towards increased interoperability with allied forces.

The work took place on 28 August at Andersen AFB in the US territory of Guam, which the fighters visited as part of the JASDF’s first overseas deployment of the type, according to the US Indo-Pacific Command.


Source: US Indo-Pacific Command

A JASDF F-35A at Andersen AFB in Guam

“Hot-pit” refuelling means the jets were refuelled with their engines still running, sharply reducing ground-time and facilitating more sorties.

“As their military shifts from a defensive only to an offensive capable force, things like hot-refuelling and rapid sortie generation aligns them with the US operational capabilities and that of our other partners in the region like Australia and South Korea,” says US Air Force Master Seargent Clarence Graves.

“It shows that our regional coalition partners are evolving their tactics and capabilities in order to maintain peace through deterrence. If called upon, they are willing and truly able to form a team capable of defeating any threat to freedom, democracy and the right to self-determination.”

Given the threat to traditional air bases in North Asia should a conflict break out with China, the US Air Force has developed an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) strategy. ACE sees aircraft cycled between a number of bases, complicating the targeting picture for Beijing, and making it harder to hit US and allied aircraft on the ground.

JASDF F-35A Refuelling Guam jpg

Source: US Indo-Pacific Command

Ground crew performing “hot-pit” refuelling with a JASDF F-35A

The ability to rapidly refuel and re-arm combat aircraft is one element of ACE.

The JASDF has also conducted air-to-air refuelling work with allies such as the USA and Australia.

Announced on 14 August, the JASDF F-35A deployment involved four F-35As as well as four support aircraft: two Kawasaki C-2 tactical transports, one Boeing KC-767 tanker, and a Lockheed C-130.