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Luke changes refueling truck color, mitigates F-35 shutdowns

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Luther Mitchell Jr.
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron recently added a new fuel truck to its fleet designed to improve mission effectiveness and safety on the flightline.

It's not really a new fuel truck, but an old fuel truck with its tank painted white. Affectionately called "Big Green" by LRS Airmen, the new white tank requires a little getting used to. The reason for the white paint job? It will keep fuel in the tankers cooler.

"We painted the refuelers white to reduce the temperature of fuel being delivered to the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter," said Senior Airman Jacob Hartman, 56th LRS fuels distribution operator. "The F-35 has a fuel temperature threshold and may not function properly if the fuel temperature is too high, so after collaborating with other bases and receiving waiver approval from AETC, we painted the tanks white."

The positive benefits the 56th LRS hopes for is no delay in aircraft take-offs, maintaining mission sorties and ensuring pilots meet training requirements.

"It ensures the F-35 is able to meet its sortie requirements," said Chief Master Sgt. Ralph Resch, 56th LRS fuels manager. "We are taking proactive measures to mitigate any possible aircraft shutdowns due to high fuel temperatures in the future."

The squadron adopted the idea after it was first implemented at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

In the summer months here at Luke, temperatures can reach beyond 110 degrees. Painting the tanks white now will help prevent fuel stored in the tanks from over-heating, but LRS Airmen have a long-term goal for the future.

"This is the short-term goal to cool the fuel for the F-35, however, the long-term fix is to have parking shades for the refuelers," Resch said.

What makes the white paint so special? It is solar polyurethane enamel that reflects the heat of the sun's rays. Interestingly, after dropping off the first truck to be painted, the 56th LRS learned it is not the color that reflects the heat, but the second reflective coating.

With this new information, the 56th LRS is working to see if they can paint the trucks green and still see a reduction in fuel temperatures.

"The painting process is a two-part process, and the second part is the reflective process," said Master Sgt. Joseph Maurin, 56th LRS fuels distribution NCO in charge. "The painter said it did not have to be a white color, so we are going to send one of the four vehicles to get painted green, if possible. We will then compare temperatures between the green and white trucks."

Luke's refuelers are also deployable. A white fuel truck would stick out like a sore thumb down range, so the 56th LRS is hopeful the tanks can be painted green and still keep fuel temperatures down.

"These trucks are deployable and the F-35 is too, so having an olive drab truck in a forward location is a lot better than having a white truck," Resch said.

The 56th LRS has been approved to paint four trucks at a cost of $3,900 per truck. It takes about a week to complete a truck.

Even though the trucks might stand out in the yard amongst the Airmen, it hasn't affected the way the 56th LRS does business.

"We still do business the same here," Maurin said. "However, because we are used to calling our refueler Big Green, the white tank has been difficult to get used to."