KADENA AIR BASE, Japan –-- U.S. Marines and Airmen conducted the first ever joint forward area refueling point exercise involving the F-35B Lighting II June 26, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
The two-day exercise enabled the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps to improve interoperability and develop tactics, techniques and procedures involving the new aircraft for future joint FARP operations throughout the Indo-Asia Pacific Theater.
Marines from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 and Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 trained alongside Airmen from the 353rd Special Operations Group and 18th Wing.
Thanks to planning and teamwork, the operation began and ended within an hour.
“Numerous people and units put in tireless man hours to make the mission a success,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jordan Carr, 353rd SOG tactics officer. “During the exercise the MC-130 was able to transfer 8,000lbs (about 1250 gallons) of fuel to the F-35 which would have allowed the F-35 to continue to fly for about 1.5 hours. In addition, the MC-130 would have had enough fuel remaining to takeoff and return to staging base hours away.”
According to Carr, FARP enables the Air Force to perform a wide range of missions across multiple domains and brings the most advanced technologies and capabilities of the U.S. military to the region by enabling aircraft to land, refuel and take off again.
The exercise tested the compatibilities of 18 LRS FARP operations with the Marine Corps' fifth-generation combat aircraft.
“Although each aircraft presents different challenges in regards to planning, once the fuel sled or cart is in place, single point refueling is straight forward, all due in part to the expertise of the MC-130 loadmasters, VMFA-121 Marines, and 18th Wing FARP crews,” Carr said. “It proves that our military organizations and structure are able to remain flexible and adaptive in today's ever-changing battle space.”
That changing battle space may require services to work together. The U.S. Marine Corps has its own version of FARP that’s called air delivered ground refueling.
“We’ve done a lot of ADGR (FARP) operations at Iwakuni, but that was internally with only the Marine Corps,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Michael O’Brien, VMFA-121 F-35B Lightning II fighter pilot. “As a joint force this is the first opportunity we took to share some of those best practices in regards to FARP and really prepare for combat operations in this theater.”
According to O’Brien, the training between services gave the Marine Corps a unique opportunity to practice joint operations with the Air Force.
“Instead of using local trucks and just refueling we were able to utilize an aircraft,” O’Brien said. “This is useful, especially when we are talking about forward deployed operations or expeditionary bases. We don’t need trucks, or even an airfield. All we need is a C-130 and a 3,000-foot landing strip. That is the capability this training brings.”
Carr considered the first joint FARP operation with the F-35 a success.
“Even though this first operation took a healthy amount of planning and coordination it allowed us to create a well-defined process,” Carr said. “This enables all organizations involved to take part in seamless integration as we continue to normalize F-35 and other FARP operations at Kadena Air Base.”