MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
ZOOM! A race car zips onto pit road and screeches to a halt. Crew members hop the concrete wall to beat the clock and get their driver back into the oval.
With tires changed and a full fuel tank, the simultaneous work of the pit crew pays off - the wheels hit the ground running and the race resumes in a matter of seconds.
Like the National Association for Race Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), the 366th Fighter Wing placed and pulled chocks Oct. 7, 2020, as they raced against time to put F-15E Strike Eagles back into the air.
“The time standard we have to turn an aircraft is one hour,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Eades, 389th Fighter Squadron weapons expediter. “During an Integrated Combat Turn (ICT), we’ve managed to turn a single aircraft in approximately 20 minutes, from start to finish.”
An ICT is a rapid re-arming and refueling practice where both fuels and weapons troops work side-by-side to turn aircraft around and get them back into the skies. ICTs place the Air Force at the leading edge of warfighting - enhancing readiness is the name of the Gunfighter game.
“It gives us the ability to quickly generate aircraft and get them back in the fight sooner,” Eades said. “Normally, a jet will land and we have a few hours to refuel it, service it and load munitions on it before sending them back into the fight. With ICTs, we cut those few hours down drastically which gives us an advantage in warfighting. While our enemies are still getting their aircraft ready, we are already back in the air.”
During an ICT, the aircraft will pull into its spot and shut down the first engine, then the petroleum, oils and lubricant team will hook up the fuel truck to start refueling.
“It’s similar to a regular hot refuel, except the extra steps allow weapons personnel to safely load munitions while the aircraft is refueled,” said Staff Sgt. Dylan Clark, 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels training supervisor.
Like a pit crew replacing tires on a race car, the weapons crew will start prepping and loading the aircraft with fresh munitions.
After the load crew gets one side of the aircraft loaded, the crew chief will have the aircrew start up the first engine, shut down the second engine and resume loading munitions onto the other side of the jet.
Weapons and fuel crews operate without slack - working like a pitstop gives aircrew more time against the clock to end conflict with potential adversaries.
“It’s important to maintain warfighting capabilities and be ready to fight at a moment’s notice,” Eades said. “Without the implementations of ICTs, we can’t support our brethren on the ground as effectively when they need it most.”