U.S. Marines with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 and Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, all based out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, conducted hot-pit refueling and hot-reload training on U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornets at Naval Air Station Pohang, Republic of Korea, Dec. 12-13, 2017.
The purpose of the training was to show that the Marines could efficiently establish a forward arming and refueling point, or FARP, with supporting entities and conduct hot-pit refueling and hot-reloading evolutions on foreign soil.
MALS-12 and VMFA(AW)-242 consisted of aviation ordnance technicians and maintainers to disarm and rearm the aircraft with MK-82 High Explosive General Purpose bombs, while MWSS-171 refueled and communicated with them from the ground.
“We don’t do hot loading too much, so this is great,” said U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Kenneth Jacob, an aviation ordnance chief with MALS-12. “I actually took some of my youngest Marines in my shop to a place where it is cold, miserable and away from home, and to do something completely different from what we were used to doing.”
Jacob said this training was invaluable to his Marines because they don’t get the opportunity to conduct hot reloads very often.
Similar to hot-pit refueling, hot reloading consists of loading and arming bombs, missiles and ammunition while the aircraft’s engine is still turning, saving valuable time to continue the mission.
If the pilots were to shut down their engines, it would take about two to three hours to do a daily inspection, whereas to refuel and load them with their engines on could put them back on the runway in an hour or less.
Before the refueling and loading process starts, the pilots need to have their ordnance disarmed while on the aircraft in a secure location away from the pits to ensure the pilots, aircrew and pits are safe from ordnance being inadvertently expended. As soon as they are de-armed, the aircraft receives fuel, then taxis to the conventional armament loading area to receive additional ordnance, and travels back to the same location to have them re-armed to continue their mission.
Jacob said that the Marines excelled in their training and proved that they can perform away from home.
“We can work at an expeditionary type airfield for the F-18s and do what we’re supposed to do,” said Jacob. “We completed the mission with everything ready to rock-and-roll.”
Jacob also said that conducting hot-pit refueling and hot reloading is a very meticulous process.
“I think anything we do as ordnance or even aircraft maintainers, requires attention to detail,” said Jacob. “You have to follow your checklist and all-around be very meticulous. Our warnings, notes and cautions in publications, and our checklists were written for a reason. Engineers wrote up these procedures, and they were written in blood by Marines or sailors before us. We do it for safety to ensure that nobody gets hurt.”
Overall the training was a success with each unit working together as a whole to ensure mission success.
“I think this training was really successful,” said Lance Cpl. Normand Corthell, a bulk fuel specialist with MWSS-171. “What I take away from this training is that we definitely know what we are working with and can easily do it in an expeditionary environment.”