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Gateway To Afghanistan

Dispatches from Manas

Posts tagged: fuel bladders

When a full bladder is a good thing

There’s a saying among KC-135 crews that goes something like, “You can’t kick ass without tanker gas.” It’s a not-so-subtle way of reminding hotshot fighter jocks that the range and versatility of their sleek, high-powered strike jets — particularly when fully armed — would be much more limited without the extra fuel delivered in mid air day and night by the Air Force’s massive aerial tanker fleet.

But those ever-present tankers would have nothing to deliver if it weren’t for P-O-L, the link in the supply chain that stands for “Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants.”

Manas Transit Center’s bladder farm can hold nearly 4 million gallons of fuel, most of it aviation grade. Deliveries arrive from Bishkek around the clock, keeping the 20 bladders filled, each of which can hold 200,000 gallons. It takes four to five tarmac fuel trucks to prepare a KC-135R Stratotanker for each refueling mission.

“We’re the largest expeditionary bladder farm” in the U.S. Defense Department, said Master Sgt. Christina Scampatilla, who runs the fueling facility.

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About this blog

Fairchild Air Force Base supplies 80 percent of the military aircraft and flight crews operating out of Manas Transit Center, a key hub along one of the primary NATO supply routes into Afghanistan. The small base, located outside the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek, is barely 400 miles from the Afghan border.


Colin Mulvany is a staff photographer for The Spokesman-Review.

David Wasson is a deputy city editor for The Spokesman-Review.

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