Home » First aviation delivered ground refueling by the F-35 conducted by VMFA-121

First aviation delivered ground refueling by the F-35 conducted by VMFA-121

by Till Daisd
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When alternative resources aren’t available, the ADGR gives VMFA-121 F-35s the option to refuel by C-130 aircraft in remote areas

At Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, on April 11, 2017, American Marines from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152 and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 performed aircraft delivered ground refueling (ADGR).

The ADGR marks the first evolution of this type of refueling for the F-35B Lightning II stealth jets operated by VMFA-121, as detailed by Lance Cpl. Joseph Abrego in his article VMGR-152, VMFA-121 fuel capabilities.

The purpose of the training was to determine the fuel flow rates in gallons per minute from the KC-130J Hercules to the F-35B Lightning II aircraft in order to gauge how quickly the procedure would go in a practical setting.

“It felt great to be a part of today’s refueling, it was surreal,” said U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Lance Cpl. Keon Willingham, a powerline mechanic with VMFA-121. “Being able to participate in the first ADGR with the F-35 is something I can look back on and be eager to tell stories about.”

The accomplishment of the ADGR boosts the unit’s capabilities by enabling C-130 aircraft to refuel in remote regions when other resources are not available.

“I’m going to take away how multi-face this operation was,” explained USMC Cpl. Matthew Schoon, ordnance technician with VMFA-121. “We had to deal with different components from the pilot in a running F-35, to a running KC-130 and Marines from VMGR 152. There was a lot of communication, and I had to keep my head on a swivel the whole time. That’s something I’ll be able to apply in any situation.”

Even though the weather caused problems for the Marines in both squadrons, it didn’t prevent them from completing their responsibilities.

“The weather played a big factor in the training today with safety, visibility and communication,” pointed out Schoon. “Training with the engines on the aircraft still running made it very hard to hear so we had to use hand signals. The rain made visibility with eye protection difficult, so we had to ensure we were being thorough and making safety a priority.”

Willingham claims that the ADGR has been essential to enhancing the VMFA-121’s deployment capability: “Completing this training is a huge confidence boost for us. Being the first to successfully complete this training and being able to do so safely, gives everyone involved the state of mind that they can accomplish anything. We will continue to train, and we will improve anywhere we can.”

As previously said, the first U.S. Lightning II to be transferred to Japan was VMFA-121 F-35Bs on January 18, 2017. At the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, the unit has now deployed 10 F-35Bs, and six more are expected to arrive this year.

Photo by  Lance Cpl. Joseph Abrego / U.S. Marine Corps

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