Because of that, we’re not exactly accustomed to seeing military aircraft being refueled on the ground. That does happen though, unnatural as it may seem, probably more often than aerial refueling. But there’s a twist here as well.
You see, apart from the usual way of pumping fuel into the tanks, while the plane is stationary and its engines turned off, the USAF also employs something called hot pit refueling. And it’s not unlike pit stops we get to see in the racing world.
With tankers, hoses and personnel close to the runway, the airplane comes in and lands, pulls next to the single-point refuel pump, and starts getting its fill with the engine still running. Once that is done, it can rapidly take off, heading for whatever mission awaits it.
According to the USAF, this way of doing things “cuts down on response time and ensures the mission can be completed anytime, anywhere.”
The F-35A Lightning II we have here is on exactly such a mission. The deck it sits on belongs to the Kadena Air Base in Japan, and the op took place at the beginning of March.
Visible in the image are also the tip of the refueling hose, an airman and two Marines, but also the pilot of the F-35, which we’re pretty sure you missed when you first looked at the photo.