Naval Air Station Oceana Fuel Farm, Unsung Supporters of the Sound of Freedom

by NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk

For more than 60 years, NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Norfolk Fuels Division has provided unparalleled customer service to Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana through the receipt and distribution of over 40 million gallons of JP-5 jet fuel per year. Although NAS Oceana’s pilots are renowned as top-notch professionals who display their skills as they maneuver their high tech machines through the air, Fuels Division is an often unsung supporter, providing the most important ingredient to move these aircraft–fuel.
An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 conducts airshow practice at Naval Air Station Oceana. –photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Caledon Rabbipal

The roar of jet engines, “the sound of freedom,” has been heard in the Virginia Beach area since the early 1940s when the world’s largest master jet base was commissioned. Military personnel and local citizens can hear F/A-18 Hornets soaring through the skies at speeds up to 1,190 mph. Pilots fly over the Hampton Roads area as they perform exercises in preparation for various missions essential to protecting the United States, providing a strong military presence throughout the Atlantic coast and around the world.

The Fuels Division is a 24/7 operation that distributes top quality, military specification fuel to 18 strike fighter wing squadrons totaling over 300 aircraft, 365 days a year. They support missions significant to deterrence and diplomacy such as carrier qualifications, composite training exercises, East coast squadron deployments, West coast squadron training, top gun exercises, and special warfare missions, all made possible by the NAS Oceana fuel farm.

Making sure fuel support is always on tap are the Navy’s finest fuel warriors—Aircraft Boatswain’s Mate Fuels (ABFs). Together with government civilians and other support rates, 80 ABFs run the NAS Oceana fuels operation from top to bottom. At other Naval Air Stations, civilians and contractors typically support fueling aircraft. This unique organization means that NAS Oceana Fuels functions more like an aircraft carrier than an air station, except carriers only do flight operations 18 hours per day. These hard charging ABFs work in four duty sections, 12-hour shifts, and split up weekends and holidays to ensure speedy, high-quality support whenever the sound of freedom comes calling.

A typical fly day can involve 250 or more fueling and defueling evolutions totaling 300,000 gallons of JP-5. This product has to be of the utmost purity in order keep jet engines running smoothly, as any water or sediment can cause serious damage. NAS Oceana filters fuel a minimum of three times before it reaches the plane. In addition, an onsite fuel lab continually tests and retains samples to ensure the filtration is meeting the highest standards.

The fuel farm has 15 flight line certified tanker trucks to help deliver fuel, as well as 18 “hot pits,” which are refueling stations for active aircraft. Two daily service tanks supply these stations and there are three larger bulk tanks to replenish these ‘day’ tanks on a continuous basis. The bulk tanks are only capable of receiving 300,000 gallons per day from the broader supply chain, and so these are replenished daily as well, via pipeline. Each of these fuel movement evolutions are closely supervised, both remotely and on station by trained personnel. Each evolution also has to be meticulously accounted for (jet fuel is expensive) by a full-time accounting staff. When a squadron requests a fill up, the fuels team has only 20 minutes to get it to them—day or night, every day of the year.

As the custodian of this precious asset, NAVSUP FLC Norfolk site NAS Oceana Fuels is crucial in supporting various naval aircraft from around the world. Because of the support system provided by the fuel farm, NAS Oceana has been able to meet the Navy’s mission without question. From hosting dynamic airshows that showcase our military might, to making countless carrier deployments possible throughout the world, the training grounds of NAS Oceana are there for the Navy and the Hampton Roads area. The constant support of the fuel farm is paramount to mission success.

NAVSUP FLC Norfolk site NAS Oceana Fuels has provided customer service to Naval Air Station Oceana for nearly a century. Without this support, “the sound of freedom,” the roar of jet engines, would not be possible. As turmoil continues to emerge around the world, it is paramount to understand that every jet that flies is a critical component to maintaining the freedom we cherish today. The fuel farm, often hidden, is there to provide the support needed to complete the country’s missions and ensure the sound of freedom never dies.