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Air Force conducts first F-35A forward refueling operation in exercise

Airmen trained and carried out the first Forward Air Refueling Point operation during an exercise Thursday, providing a fill-up for an F-35A Lightning II from an MC-130J Commando II.

By Ed Adamczyk
Two special tactics members at Cannon AFB, N.M.,observe as, for the first time, the F-35A fighter plane is refueled from an MC-130J Commando II fuel-carrying plane during a Forward Air Refueling Point exercise earlier this week. Photo by Micah Garbarino/U.S. Air Force
Two special tactics members at Cannon AFB, N.M.,observe as, for the first time, the F-35A fighter plane is refueled from an MC-130J Commando II fuel-carrying plane during a Forward Air Refueling Point exercise earlier this week. Photo by Micah Garbarino/U.S. Air Force

March 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force undertook a training exercise, for the first time, involving rapid refueling of an F-35A fighter plane, it announced.

Airmen from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah and Airmen from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron and the 27th Special Operation Logistics Readiness Squadron at Cannon AFB, trained and carried out a Forward Air Refueling Point exercise on Wednesday at Cannon AFB in New Mexico.

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An MC-130J Commando II was used to refuel the F-35A Lightning II fighter, in an exercise that is important for the ability to land in a remote location, refuel, re-arm and return to battle.

The training, Air Force officials said in a statement on Thursday, is part of developing the ability for adaptive basing, "a key component to providing air power in highly contested modern warfare."

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The MC-130J landed at a secure location in a remote part of the base guarded by Air Force combat controllers. An F-35A landed immediately after, and fuel lines were quickly set up, with fuel transferred to the F-35A.

The exercise was the first for an F-35, but not for many of the airmen involved, as some have conducted the same exercises with F-22 Raptors. Expanding FARP operations to the F-35, officials say, will offer more options to commanders.

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"We're really experienced at FARP operations with fourth-generation aircraft like the F-16 and the A-10 but this is the first time we've done it with the F-35," said Maj. Meghan O'Rourke, a combat systems officer with the 9th Special Operations Squadron and one of the organizers of the exercise.

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