KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen from the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron are making history refueling aircraft both big and small using the Versatile Integrating Partner Equipment Refueling (VIPER) kit for the first time at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
The team employed the new equipment, procured through Pacific Air Forces innovation funding, to refuel visiting KC-46 Pegasus aircraft, as well as locally stationed F-15C Eagles in order to build proficiency with the VIPER kits while pushing the envelope of U.S. Air Force refueling capabilities.
For Master Sgt. Jason Yunker, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels operations section chief, this newest development is yet another milestone in a long road that started with an idea scribbled on a bar napkin. It’s now known across the Air Force as the VIPER Kit, a universal system that can be outfitted with multiple adapters to refuel varying airframes, much like a phone charger with adapters to charge various models of cell phones.
This allows for more flexible, efficient refueling operations while strengthening joint-force capabilities around the globe.
“It opens up the door so we can perform the operations we need to do in order to rapidly turn aircraft,” said Yunker. “So if we're going into any airfield that's already there and has fuel infrastructure, we don't need to bring our own fuel.”
Aligning with the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept, the VIPER kit allows for rapid hot pit refueling of aircraft with any existing fuel infrastructure at dispersed austere bases, enhancing joint operation capabilities.
Major Eric Cadorette,18th Wing ACE director of operations, believes the VIPER kit is key for joint interoperability.
“In an ACE construct, we're not going to be able to fight alone. We're going to need our partners and allies to be able to do this, and sometimes those places [we could operate from] aren't going to necessarily have the equipment that we need to ensure that our aircraft are full,” said Cadorette. “The VIPER kit is going to bridge those gaps.”
Alongside faster employment of airpower, the VIPER kit also saves approximately $17,000 in operations throughout Europe and can save up to $1 million dollars in operations throughout the Pacific.
The time and money saved by the kit is an instrumental part of ACE, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the team’s innovative ideas, said Yunker.
“It wasn't just me that got it here, It was a whole team of people,” he said. “Without that team, this thing wouldn't have gone anywhere.”
In addition to solid teamwork, Yunker credits innovation as one of the most paramount aspects of ACE.
“It's important for people to innovate because it opens us up to a new capability that we didn't even know was there,” said Yunker. “Innovation is such a crucial part of progression not just for the individual, but for the Air Force and enterprise as a whole.”