Marine Corps F-35B stealth jets conducted aerial refueling mission above the East China Sea

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.

Three F-35B Lightning II stealth attack jets, the Marine Corps’ newest and most versatile fighter, flew from their home station at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, to rendezvous with a KC-130J Super Hercules aerial tanker belonging to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 (VMGR-152).

VMFA-121, part of the Aviation Combat Element for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, provides a fixed-wing attack capability for the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU. VMGR-152, the “Sumos,” provides a vital refueling and transport capability for 1st Marine Aircraft Wing across the vast 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 strengthening its posture and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific. The F-35B is a key enabler for the Marine Corps’ strategy as part of INDOPACOM, 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 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
Photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish
Photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish

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