MCAS YUMA, Ariz. --- Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron (MAWTS) 1, conducted hot loads with the F-35B Lightning II during the semiannual Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) 2-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, April 4, 2017.
“A hot load is when the Marines are performing the loading evolution while the aircraft is turning,” Master Sgt. Jason Daniel, an ordnance chief with MAWTS-1. “This poses more challenges as far as communicating and just creating some chaos as far as noise and a lot of moving parts.”
The hot load consisted of loading a Guided Bomb Unit (GBU) 12, an aerial laser-guided bomb, and the GBU-32, a GPS guided bomb which has never been hot loaded onto the F-35B before.
It ultimately takes five Marines during the loading process: two Marines to give direction, two Marines manually moving and inserting the bomb, and a quality assurance safety observer Marine to ensure everything runs smoothly.
“We’ve loaded the GBU-12 before, but this will be the first time doing it while the aircraft is turning,” said Daniel. “This is the first time loading the GBU-32. There are hazards; the Marines are in close proximity to the intake. There is potential of someone getting hurt, but we’ve put a lot of time and effort into looking at those hazards and trying to minimize them.”
The ability to hot load the F-35B, opposed to shutting down the aircraft completely to load, can save wear and tear on the aircraft. In a combat situation, performing a hot load would save time and minimize any failure opportunities with the aircraft, according to Daniel.
“Hot loading is going to give us the advantage of minimizing maintenance hours, time on deck, and maximizing the capability of the F-35B,” said Daniel. “Whenever the jet is turned off and back on, it puts more stress on a lot of parts in the aircraft and it increases the opportunity to fail. In a combat scenario this evolution would benefit us because the jet is already turning, the Marines can get in and get out, leaving no trace of them being there, making it harder for the enemy to locate them.”
The hot load evolution is slowly being perfected, reducing safety risks, and is on its way to being validated to prove the concept so that it can be published and distributed throughout the Marine Corps to be taught at the squadron level at command discretion.
“VMFA-211 is stepping up to the plate to perform the tasks and getting their pilots trained and implementing the ideas and tactics that WTI has created,” said Daniel. “With WTI, we have all the resources available to us. This is the one opportunity when all the aircraft are here dedicated to supporting WTI. We’re able to execute and fully implement the hot load. Hot loading will most definitely enhance what we get out of the F-35B.”
Lasting seven weeks, WTI is a training evolution hosted by MAWTS-1 that provides standardized advanced and tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine aviation training and readiness.