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Marine aircraft refuel during midair training

US Marine Corps News

12/2/2011 By Lance Cpl. Kris Daberkoe, Marine Corps Bases Japan

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan — Marines with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing conducted tactical aerial refueling training here Nov. 29.

During the training, two AV-8B Harriers with Marine Attack Squadron 214, joined KC-130J Hercules cargo aircraft from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 to transfer thousands of pounds of fuel to the aircraft.

VMA-214 is originally based out of Yuma, Ariz., and is currently attached to the aviation combat element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The in-air transfer of more than 6,000 pounds of fuel allows the Harrier pilots to continue training without losing valuable time associated with conducting a landing, increasing their flight time by hours, according to Cpl. Benjamin Lopez, a crew chief with VMGR-152.

“The purpose of AR training is to give pilots an understanding of how to refuel different aircraft,” said Lopez. “Whether the aircraft is a helicopter or a jet, each type of aircraft comes with its own unique challenges. For example, the winds that blow from the spinning blades of a (helicopter) causes intense vibrations in a (KC-130J), while the high-speed approach of a Harrier can cause a lot of shaking.”

The KC-130J is also capable of refueling aircraft such as the MV-22 Osprey, UH-60 Blackhawk, CH-53 Super Stallion and the F/A-18D Hornet.

“It’s important to offer AR capabilities to as many aircraft as possible,” said Lance Cpl. Christian A. Garza, a loadmaster with VMGR-152. “There is no telling what kind of operations we may have in the future, so we are ready for anything now.”

The KC-130J refueled the Harriers using the ‘probe-and-drogue’ method of aerial refueling. The refueling began with the KC-130J feeding out an 80-foot hose with a nozzle equipped with flaps to catch the wind. This allows the hose to remain vertical for the receiving aircraft to catch using its probe, which is attached to the front of the aircraft.

“The flaps have a similar effect to sticking your arm out the window of your car,” said Garza. “The air current created from traveling at high speeds causes the hose to lift.”

In combat operations aerial refueling is important in providing and maintaining air-to-ground and air-to-air support, said Capt. Derek K. Johnson, a KC-130J pilot with VMGR-152.

“In the event that one of our combat patrols needs air support, having the increased flight range that aerial refueling gives could determine how an engagement ends,” he added.

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