The US Marine Corps' (USMC) Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 has conducted hot loads with the F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter, in collaboration with the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1).
The hot load exercise was conducted during the semi-annual Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17 at USMC’s Air Station Yuma, Arizona, US.
It involved the loading of an aerial laser-guided bomb, guided bomb unit (GBU) 12, and the global positioning system (GPS) guided bomb GBU-32, which until now had never been hot loaded onto the F-35B fighter.
MAWTS-1 ordnance chief master sergeant Jason Daniel said: “A hot load is when the marines are performing the loading evolution while the aircraft is turning.
“This poses more challenges as far as communicating and just creating some chaos as far as noise and a lot of moving parts.”
The hot loading process required five marines, of whom two marines were deployed to give direction, two to move and insert the bomb manually, and one quality-assurance safety observer marine to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
The ability to hot load the F-35B Lightning II can save wear and tear on the aircraft compared to load methods that require shutting down the aircraft completely.
Conducting a hot load in a combat situation can help save time and minimise failure opportunities with the aircraft.
Daniel added: “Hot loading is going to give us the advantage of minimising maintenance hours, time on deck, and maximising the capability of the F-35B.
“Whenever the jet is turned off and back on, it puts more stress on a lot of parts in the aircraft and it increases the opportunity to fail.
“In a combat scenario this evolution would benefit us because the jet is already turning, the marines can get in and get out, leaving no trace of them being there, making it harder for the enemy to locate them.”
Image: Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 prepare to conduct a hot load on an F-35B Lightning II at US Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. Photo: courtesy of Cpl. Harley Robinson.