Servo in the sky fuels gasoline-guzzling Raptors

US jet fighter pilots got a taste of the iconic Aussie servo this week – in the sky over the Queensland coast.

It was the first time it had happened Down Under with an Australian Air Force KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft from Ipswich’s No. 33 Squadron successfully conducting an air-to-air refuelling mission with the United States Air Force F-22 Raptor.

Group Captain Stephen Chappell, Talisman Sabre 2019 Amberley Task Unit Commander, said this was a major achievement for the Australian Defence Force.

“It has been an invaluable opportunity for No. 33 Squadron to train alongside the USAF and the F-22 Raptor, and to access US fighter aircraft fuel receiver expertise,” he said.

With up to 14 sorties per day flying in an out of Amberley during Exercise Talisman Sabre, it has been a massive effort keeping all of the aircraft full of fuel, both from the air and the ground.

Amberley Talisman Sabre 2019 Maintenance Operations Centre (MOC) officer in charge Flight Lieutenant Sam Stockdale said it was beneficial for local crews to join the 90 US maintenance personnel servicing the jets.

“The MOC assists with the coordination of resources, such as fuel, and acts as a liaison for the prioritisation of other local base services – even aircraft parking,” Flight Lieutenant Stockdale said.

“Essentially, the MOC is a centralised maintenance cell acting as a host for our visitors.”

He said there was another vital “job” – helping the Yanks understand the Aussie lingo. USAF personnel were embedded in the MOC on an ad-hoc basis to assist with the humorous language differences that arise.

“The main one is calling aircraft fuel ‘gas’ and tow motors ‘tugs’,” Flight Lieutenant Stockdale said.

“These things are easy to get around. Yesterday, I had to clarify that a ‘skip’ is just a big trash can.” 

Royal Australian Air Force No. 23 Squadron Movements Aircraft Refueller Leading Aircraftman Craig Stewart (left) teams with United States Air Force Aircraft Refueller Airman First Class Paul Bonham to refuel aircraft on the flightline at Amberley during Exercise Talisman Sabre 19.

The 90-plus personnel from a United States Air Force (USAF) aircraft maintenance unit were stationed alongside the MOC.

Weapons, avionics, environmental, mechanical and production specialists assisted the 90th Fighter Squadron with the first F-22 Raptor fighter jet operations in Australia.

Master Sergeant Fredrick Cook Jr, the lead production superintendent, said his team received the operation briefing months before the exercise began describing it as a massive undertaking.

“We are working closely with the RAAF maintenance operations centre here on base regarding the delivery of equipment and engine repairs,” he said.

“We have deployed to Amberley millions of dollars in parts for the F-22s.”

Parked near the No. 36 Squadron hangar, deployable debriefing facilities and combat communications centres were also installed by USAF personnel.

Master Sergeant Cook said the international airlift effort and preparation involved multiple aircraft.

“When we first arrived, there were kangaroos hopping all over the taxiway – such a unique thing for our team to see,” he said.

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