The 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron Fuels Management Flight is renovating a fuel tank with a scheduled completion date of early February at Luke Air Force Base.
The 1940s fuel tank is under construction to bring it up to code and sustain fighter pilot training.
“We’ve got 1.6 million gallons worth of fuel sitting in there,” said Ed Smith, 56th LRS fuels terminal superintendent. “We’re putting fuel in and taking fuel out every day. That is a lot of stress on the tank itself and a lot of flexing of wells. Inspectors couldn’t guarantee the integrity, so to prevent catastrophic failure to the tank they thought it best to do the repairs.”
Everything short of the tank shell will be replaced to meet current requirements.
“Last week they sealed up the tank, cut a lot of things out and sealed the pan,” Smith said. “The tank was filled with water so the legs could be cut off the pan and now the water is draining down. When the pan is flush on the floor, they will remove the pan, replace the floor, replace the ports where the fuel goes in and out, and put a new floating pan inside it.”
The Defense Logistics Agency Energy is managing the tank overhaul. Western Solutions, a contractor of DLAE, subcontracted the repairs to Landmark.
The fuels management flight, contractors and base agencies are working closely together to ensure construction does not interfere with Luke’s flying mission.
“There has been quite a bit of coordination with airfield management, with cranes and equipment being in the aircraft approach zone,” Smith said. “There can’t be anything in the air interfering with approaching aircraft.”
Luke has seven fuel tanks. Five are JP-8 fuel tanks; one is for unleaded gas and one for diesel fuel. The largest is the one under construction.
“We are moving fuel in those tanks continuously each day,” Smith said. “We receive fuel offsite about 18 miles away. The fuel is pushed out to us from a pipeline. We fill up a tank, let it settle for eight hours, then transfer it to another issue tank. Those tanks fill up the trucks, which go to the flightline to fuel the aircraft.”
Up to 120,000 gallons of fuel are consumed a day here at Luke, but that number can spike up to 150,000 on some days. With the addition of the new F-35s, the number can reach anywhere from 250,000 to 350,000 gallons a day.
“With the current infrastructure we have right now, we couldn’t support that,” Smith said. “That is why it is critical we get this done now.”
Completion of this tank is critical to the success of Luke’s mission, Smith said. Once construction is complete, managing Luke’s fuel supply will be a little easier.
“We’re guaranteed we’ll have a tank that is in compliance and safer,” he said. “We will have 1.6 million gallons added back to our base storage. Right now we are running almost day to day. What we are receiving is what we are issuing. This will give us a little bit of a safeguard.”
Master Sgt. Donald Ray, 56th LRS Fuels Management Flight NCO-in-charge of facilities, has been overseeing the contractors while on base. This renovation couldn’t have come at a better time, he said.
“It’s vital,” Ray said. “When the F-35s get here, it will be critical to the mission.”