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Japan-Based Marines Conduct Nighttime Aerial Refueling Training

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Stephen Campbell Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

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MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan, Oct. 27, 2017 — Marines based here conducted a nighttime aerial refueling exercise Oct. 25-26 to improve operational readiness and enhance pilot proficiency.

VMGR-152 conducts nighttime aerial refueling with VMFA-121, VMFA-251
An F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 based out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, conducts a nighttime aerial refueling training operation with a KC-130J Hercules aircraft with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Oct. 25, 2017. The training was conducted at night to improve operational readiness and enhance pilot proficiency. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mason Roy
VMGR-152 conducts nighttime aerial refueling with VMFA-121, VMFA-251 VMGR-152 conducts nighttime aerial refueling with VMFA-121, VMFA-251
An F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 based out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, conducts a nighttime aerial refueling training operation with a KC-130J Hercules aircraft with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Oct. 25, 2017. The training was conducted at night to improve operational readiness and enhance pilot proficiency. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mason Roy

Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 used their KC-130J Hercules aircraft to refuel F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 and F/A-18C Hornets with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251.

“Every 180 days the squadrons should have completed at least five successful movement-to-contact scenarios with tankers to stay proficient,” said Marine Corps Maj. Brian Miller, a KC-130 pilot and aircraft commander with VMGR-152. “This training exercises our systems, so that we know our aerial refueling pods, our refueling system and their air refueling systems are all working.”

The mission of VMGR-152 is to support the Marine air-ground task force by providing aerial refueling and assault support, day or night under all weather conditions during expeditionary, joint or combined operations in the region.

The unit is also capable of aerial deliveries, assault landing zone operations and battlefield illumination.

Nighttime Challenges

Miller said nighttime aerial refueling can be difficult due to the reduced vision environment and possible inclement weather.

“We practice this because if we’re conducting a real-world scenario it’s not always going to be during the day. It could be in inclement weather at night,” said Miller.

F-35 and F/A-18 pilots perform aerial refueling exercises to remain tactically proficient during long-range missions. Once refueling is complete, the pilots can continue executing their mission.

The fighter aircraft carry less fuel than other types. So, without a KC-130J refueling aircraft providing support, the fighters could run out of fuel during a mission.

“Anytime we train it keeps the proficiency of the squadron up,” said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Olivia Raftshol, a KC-130J co-pilot with VMGR-152. “The training shows that we can meet and refuel aircraft at any given time and location to keep them in the air longer. It’s pretty straightforward for us because we do a lot of AR, so it’s just another day in the life of a KC-130J pilot.”

The units were able to coordinate the mission, launch on time and execute with a 100 percent success rate.

“If we ever get the call to head north, south, east or west from here, we know we’ve got tanker and fighter assets that are trained, capable and proficient to provide them with fuel when they need it,” Miller said.
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