The Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II has faced many challenges thus far in it’s development and initial production, placing significant delays along the road to reaching Initial Operational Capability.
In an article from the USAF’s Air Education and Training Command, SrA Jacob Hartman is quoted saying, “We painted the refueled white to reduce the temperature of fuel being delivered to the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.”
The reason for this move? “The F-35 has a fuel temperature threshold and may not function properly if the fuel temperature is too high, so after collaborating with other bases and receiving waiver approval from AETC, we painted the tanks [on the refueling trucks] white.”
Hot fuel temperatures present a significant challenge, considering a few of the locations where the F-35 is currently flying: Edwards AFB, California; Nellis AFB, Nevada, MCAS Yuma, Arizona; and Luke AFB, Arizona. All of these bases are no strangers to oppressive triple-digit temperatures. Fuel trucks positioned near the runways do not have their own sun shades, so it drives up the temperature of the fuel inside.
The long term fix is heat-reflective coatings for the trucks, as well as sun shades made specifically for them–much like those made for the aircraft themselves. But in the mean time? Shiny white fuel trucks it is–at $3,900 per truck for the new paint. So far, only one truck has been repainted, and further testing will determine if it is an adequate, short-term fix.
The good news is there have been no reported incidents of the F-35 failing to fly in hotter temperatures, with military officials noting the jet performed well during desert climate test flights.
In a statement from Pratt & Whitney, Military Engines Division Communications Manager Matthew Bates explained further.
“The F135 engine meets all high temperature fuel requirements. Recent high temperature testing at Eglin Air Force Base verified the capability of the engine to operate with high temperature fuels. There are no engine requirements that drive the need to paint fuel trucks.”
So instead of a problem with the airplane, the new paint is simply a measure implemented to decrease the likelihood of a heat-related problem developing.
“It ensures the F-35 is able to meet its sortie requirements,” said Chief Master Sergeant Ralph Resch, 56 LRS fuels manager. “We are taking proactive measures to mitigate any possible aircraft shutdowns due to high fuel temperatures in the future.”