USMC conducts F-35B hot load exercises with AIM-120 missiles


The US Marine Corps' (USMC) Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 has conducted hot loads in the F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter at the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona.

The VMFA-121 squadron is a part of Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

Hot-loading occurs when the engine is kept running during ordnance loading.

The exercise was performed as a validation or verification process during the Weapons and Tactics Instructors (WTI) course 1 to 18.

It involved the loading of the advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAMMs) AIM-120 onto the aircraft, which took off horizontally immediately after the loading procedure was finished.

The exercise helps to verify theory and validate publication, as well as providing the marines with a chance to load live ordnance while the aircraft is still hot.

VMFA 121 aviation ordnance technician corporal Matthew Donovan said: “They will now have a publication to use.

“We took it out there and we validated it. We know it works so now in the future they will have it in writing.”

"The exercise helps to verify theory and validate publication, as well as providing the marines with a chance to load live ordnance while the aircraft is still hot."

WTI is an exercise that involves service members from around the world take parting in a joint training activity to improve mission readiness. It is hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron one.

The AMRAMM AIM-120 missile is set to be used in combination with a tactical air launch decoy (TALD), which was loaded onto an AV-8B Harrier II aircraft to be launched and used as a target for the AIM-120.

Donovan noted that AIM-120 is currently the only missile in the F-35’s arsenal for the USMC.

USMC’s VMFA 211 previously collaborated with the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) to conducted hot loads with the F-35B in April.


Image: US Marines with VMFA 121 load ordnance on an F-35B Lightning II while conducting a hot load during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 1-18 in Yuma, Arizona. Photo: courtesy of Lance Cpl. Koby Saunders.