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Military Capabilities

USMC continues development of F-35's tactical capabilities

27 September 2017
Ordnance technicians from VFMA 121 'hot load' an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile onto an F-35B during an exercise to help roll-out the aircraft's tactical capabilities. Source: USMC

The US Marine Corps (USMC) is continuing to develop the tactical operating capabilities of the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), with the first 'hot loading’ exercise of live missiles announced on 25 September.

Aircraft and personnel from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VFMA) 121 conducted ‘hot-load’ training of an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) onto an F-35B during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) 1-18 in Yuma, Arizona, on 21 September.

A ‘hot-load’ involves replenishing the aircraft’s ordnance while the engine is still running, and is conducted to save turnaround times between missions. As noted by the USMC, the exercise was conducted to ensure both pilots and ground crew have a real example of operations should those units deploy. “It’s critical in developing our expeditionary capabilities,” a technician with VFMA 121 was quoted as saying.

Following the exercise, the F-35B took off and engaged a Tactical Air Launch Decoy (TALD) with the hot-loaded AMRAAM.

Having been the first operator to declare initial operating capability for the F-35, the USMC is leading the way in developing and rolling out the capabilities of the fifth-generation fighter, and VFMA 121 is at the forefront of the corps’ effort to develop the F-35B's tactical capabilities.

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