US Marines F-35B Stealth Jets Ramp-up Combat Training against China in Japan
The U.S. Marines Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter squadron deployed to Japan in January continues to practice for expeditionary or overseas combat, and is conducting training exercises to operate the jets in real-world scenarios while operating from austere locations.
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Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) or the Green Knights have loaded live bombs and missiles on their F-35Bs (a process called a hot reload) and conducted aviation-delivered ground refueling (ADGR) at their base at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.
A hot reload is the process of loading ordnance onto an aircraft while the pilot remains in the cockpit with the engine running. The ability to hot reload the F-35B, as opposed to shutting down the aircraft completely to load, can save wear and tear on the aircraft. In a combat situation, a hot load will save time and minimize any failure opportunities with the jet.
The Marines said this is the first time the forward-deployed VMFA-121 loaded ordnance onto a running F-35B at Iwakuni to prepare for real-world scenarios.
The ADGR exercise saw a Marine KC-130J Hercules aerial tanker transfer fuel directly to the F-35B while both aircraft were on the ground. The squadron's first ADGR established flow rates of fuel in gallons per minute to determine how fast the process could be carried out.
The Marines said successfully completing the ADGR is a landmark that increases the capabilities of the squadron, offering the ability to refuel by C-130 aircraft in austere locations when other resources are unavailable.
During the hot reload, 1,000-pound inert GBU-32 satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions were loaded onto the internal weapons bay of the F-35B, which can carry two such weapons.
VMFA-121 has 10 F-35Bs based at Iwakuni, a number that will increase to 16 over the summer, bringing the squadron to full strength. The squadron will go to sea with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in the fall.
The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1) is scheduled to become part of the United States Seventh Fleet forward-deployed naval forces later this year when it moves from Norfolk, Virginia to Sasebo, Japan.
The warship will eventually replace the current forward-deployed amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard, which is due to return to San Diego, California for maintenance and upgrades in 2018.