F-35B conducted First aerial refueling mission above the East China Sea. An F-35B Lightning II attack jet flies alongside a KC-130J tanker aircraft attached to a refueling drogue during an aerial refueling mission above the East China Sea, Oct. 23, 2018.
Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish from 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit said the Marines and aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) flexed their muscle Oct. 23, completing a three aircraft aerial refueling mission above the East China Sea.
The F-35B belongs to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) and the KC-130J belongs to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 (VMGR-152).
VMFA-121, part of the Aviation Combat Element for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is the Marine Corps’ only forward-deployed F-35B squadron – as part of the 31st MEU, the squadron provides fixed-wing attack capabilities across the Indo-Pacific region during Marine Corps and Navy amphibious operations.
The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU, provides a flexible force ready to perform a wide range of military operations across the Indo-Pacific region.
“The fifth-generation and stealth capabilities of the F-35B make the aircraft a key enabler for the 31st MEU,” said Lt. Col. Michael D. Wyrsch, 31st MEU detachment commander with VMFA-121. “The F-35B improves the maneuverability and freedom of movement of the 31st MEU and U.S. Navy Amphibious Ready Group team throughout the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s area of responsibility due to the leap in capabilities of both the onboard sensors and the weapons.”
During 2016, the U.S. began a shift of focus from operations in the Middle East to strengthen its posture and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific. The F-35B is a key enabler for the Marine Corps’ strategy as part of INDOPACOM (U.S Indo-Pacific Command), and VMFA-121 is the centerpiece for forward-deployed, amphibious operations of the so-called 5th Generation stealth fighter, said Wyrsch.
“The Marines Corps’ motto of “First to Fight” is why the F-35B is critical in the INDOPACOM (U.S. Indo-Pacific Command) AOR,” said Wyrsch. “The lethality, flexibility, and responsiveness of having a land and sea-based 5th Generation stealth fighter pre-positioned in this AOR provides the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander the ability to gain and maintain the offensive advantage.”
Photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit
Video by Lance Cpl. Angelo Garavito 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit