New $30M Fuel System Planned at Selfridge

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
A new $30.2 million jet fuel storage and delivery system will be built at Selfridge Air National Guard Base later this decade, potentially smoothing the way for future aircraft and mission assignments to the southeastern Michigan base.

The fuel farm will feature three primary components:

· An above ground, 630,000 gallon storage complex.

· An eight-station hydrant refueling system that will allow even the largest Air Force aircraft to "pull-up to the pump."

· A new fuel unloading site that, while it will be on existing military property, may be located outside of the base's fence line to provide better security to the base.

The project, to be funded by the federal Defense Logistics Agency, is expected to become operational in 2018. Formal design work on the project will begin in early 2013, said Maj. Todd Rupright, an engineering officer with the 127th Wing, the host unit at Selfridge.

Col. Michael T. Thomas, the 127th Wing commander, said the new fuel farm and delivery system will create new efficiencies for Selfridge that will enhance the base's attractiveness for potential new missions.

"As we look to the future, I believe we are now entering a period where we can begin to grow the mission-set that exists at Selfridge," Thomas said. "With the new KC-46 tanker coming on line in the Air Force, a new, upgraded fuel delivery system makes us that much more competitive as a potential basing location for that aircraft."

An announcement on the first basing assignments for the new KC-46 are expected to be made by the Air Force by the end of the year.

With funding now in place for the fuel system expansion at Selfridge, Thomas said the majority of the needed infrastructure will be in place, should the KC-46 be based at Selfridge.

"We estimate that the expenditure needed by the Dept. of Defense to base the KC-46 here is estimated to be only $3.75 million," Thomas said. "While we take any expenditure of the people's money very seriously, this is a relatively small sum compared to the infrastructure needs at many other bases, as we prepare for the possibility of this new air frame."

Part of the required $3.75 million, 127th Wing officials said, would pay for a tanker flight simulator, which would allow pilots and air crew to conduct a significant portion of their training in the simulator, saving significantly on jet fuel expenses. The remainder of the funds would pay for modifying two existing hangars. Wing leaders said Selfridge already has adequate runways and ramp space to accommodate the new aircraft.

Leaders at Selfridge had been seeking approval for funding for a new hydrant fuel system for a number of years.

Thomas said several excellent scores on operational readiness inspections recently recorded by the 127th Air Refueling Group, the 330 or so Airmen at the base charged with the operation of the KC-135s, helped to move Selfridge up in the funding priority list.

"Our Airmen have proven their ability to perform at the highest level, to be an excellent asset to U.S. Strategic Command and other senior commanders," Thomas said. "This new fuel storage and delivery system will allow us to be even more efficient in providing aircraft to the fight, whenever needed."

Currently, Selfridge's jet fuel storage area is on the opposite side of the base from the bulk of the aircraft operations. Civilian fuel trucks enter the base to deliver their fuel to the storage area and military fuel trucks travel back and forth to deliver the fuel to the various types of aircraft on the base, which include Coast Guard and Customs & Border Protection helicopters and light aircraft, in addition to A-10 Thunderbolt II fighters and KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refuelers operated by the Michigan Air National Guard. A squadron of Michigan Army National Guard helicopters is also assigned to the base, but currently is deployed to Afghanistan.

Once the new system is operational, the larger refuelers will be able to pull up directly to the hydrant to receive fuel. The hydrants are located below ground level and a large hose will connect directly from the hydrant to the aircraft.

"This will create efficiencies in time and in safety by cutting down on the required truck traffic around the base," Rupright said.

According to Master Sgt. Eric Henderson, the fuels superintendent for the 127th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Selfridge, under current operations, it can take up to six trucks to fully fuel a KC-135, depending on the aircraft's mission requirements. The KC-46's maximum fuel load of 212,299 pounds is slightly larger than that of the 50-year-old KC-135, which maxes out at 200,000 pounds. (The Air Force's current primary jet fuel, JP-8, has an average weight of about 6.7 pounds per gallon, but varies based on temperature conditions).

Smaller fighter aircraft and helicopters will still be serviced by military refueling trucks, but the loading point for the trucks will be closer to where the bulk of aircraft operations take place.

Rupright said the new fuel system will be designed using double-walled piping with a leak monitoring system.

"The new system will have environmental, safety and anti-terrorism/force protection advantages over our current system," he said.

The existing fuels storage unit on the base will be maintained as a back-up system for the immediate future.

A previous hydrant system at Selfridge, which dates from the 1960s, ceased being used in the 1990s.