Fueling the fight


The mission of the 436th and 512th Airlift Wings at Dover Air Force Base is to provide worldwide rapid global airlift. The flying squadrons of Dover account for 20 percent of the nation’s outsized strategic airlift capability. Dover is also home to the largest aerial port in the Department of Defense.

But not a single mission can get off the ground without petroleum, oil and lubricants.

“We supply the fuel for every single aircraft. We also supply the fuel to our base vehicles through our military service station,” said Tech. Sgt. Brandon Earl, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron Fuels Operations Section chief.

POL Airmen at Dover are responsible for the distribution of over 30 million gallons of fuel annually. In FY18, they provided fuel to 3,617 aircraft, including Dover’s fleet of C-5M Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III jets. The fuels service center coordinates all the daily fueling and defueling tasks on the base. All fuel stored at Dover is technically owned by the Defense Logistics Agency until the moment it enters the fuel tanks on an aircraft, and the fuels service center must be accountable for every single gallon.

A refueling can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the amount of fuel needed. A C-5M can hold up to 51,140 gallons of jet fuel. This means, before any cargo or personnel is loaded, it is already carrying 322,500 pounds of fuel. A C-17 Globemaster III holds 28,000 gallons (181,054 pounds).

Dover AFB is equipped with a Type III hydrant system, which pumps fuel from aboveground storage tanks to 31 “pits” on the runway through a system of underground pipes. The entire system is pressurized and closely monitored for leaks. Fuel reserves are kept in aboveground storage tanks, which are replenished by Port Mahon, just a few miles from the base. This system also uses underground pipes. Each day, the fuel at Dover is sampled and tested for sediment and water content to ensure all aircraft get the cleanest fuel possible. All fuel is filtered at least twice before it ever makes it to the aircraft.

In addition to the fueling mission, the cryogenics section at POL is also responsible for all the oxygen used in aircraft fire suppression systems and breathing systems for aircrews. Liquid oxygen is loaded onto the aircraft, where it is converted back to a breathable gaseous form. All nitrogen used in aircraft and vehicle tires is also stored in liquid form until ready for use.

Construction of a brand new Type III hydrant system and fuel storage station on the opposite side of the base will streamline the refueling process for aircraft on the hot cargo pad by eliminating the need for multiple fuel trucks to make multiple trips out there.

“Without POL, nothing on the flight line moves,” said Earl.

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Dover Air Force Base website.