How does a transport plane fill US M1 tank with diesel fuel?

WASHINGTON — A US Air Force C-130J Super Hercules military transport plane filled the fueltank of an M1 Abrams tank with diesel and flew back. It sounds incredible, but in fact, this is not new or unusual during US military training. Such actions show that the US is working on a singular compatibility between the ground forces and the air forces of the US military.

How a transport plane fills a US Army M1 tank with diesel fuel
Photo by Senior Airman Leon Redfern

In the US military [worldwide too] the term is known as ‘hot pitting’. A transport plane plays slave to an oil station while on the ground refueling ground armored vehicles. It is important to note that the aircraft’s engines as well as the vehicle’s engines are running at this time.

Running engines is not some complicated scientific definition of why they do it, but a purely practical application. I.e. the aircraft as well as the tank may have a problem restarting the engine if they are refueling with the engines off. In this way, technical problems are excluded when the aircraft is re-ignited before take off. The same is done with the tank.

Time matters too. If hot pitting is practiced in a real combat environment, the faster the vehicle is loaded, the faster the transport aircraft will take off. Therefore, working engines not only prevent the occurrence of a technical problem but also shorten the time for carrying out the activity, thereby quickly and on time away from the combat actions on the ground.

This is the first known case of a transport aircraft filling a fuel tank. Although it may be common practice, the event is intriguing. The US Army shared photos of the hot pitting process.

Although this is assumed to be common practice, information on such training is scarce, suggesting that this may be a new tool for action in a real combat setting or a new modification.

It is interesting that to perform hot pitting, the transport aircraft must carry specific fuel, which is used precisely by the M1 Abrams tanks. This tank has high requirements for the fuel it “swallows”. It is known for the fact that it is one of the few land-based weapons systems that “swallow” a large amount of fuel. The M1 Abrams fuel tank is supposed to hold 500 gallons of fuel. 300 gallons is required every eight hours, but this consumption depends on the type of mission, terrain, and other factors.

How a transport plane fills a US Army M1 tank with diesel fuel
Photo by Senior Airman Leon Redfern

Military analysts comment that the recent hot pitting exercise is interesting to study. It could provide food for thought and analysis of how exactly the US Air Force transports direct-loading Army armor could become part of a larger solution to these problems that would fit into the Air Force’s own hopes of operating in -distributed way within the Agile Combat Philosophy of Employment [ACE].

ACE is an important part of American strategy. It studies and researches the methods of rapid deployment in short terms of military units in different parts of the world. The idea is for the Pentagon to apply ACE in the strategic decisions of military operations, however, they should not be at the expense of combat capabilities.


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