F-35B in first hot ordnance reload action in Indo-Pacific

An F-35B prepares to take off during the aerial gunnery and ordnance hot-reloading exercise. Photo: US Marines

F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp used the GAU-22 cannon against a simulated target and executed the first shipboard hot reload of ordnance in the Indo-Pacific region while underway in the Solomon Sea.

The aircraft from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (REIN), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, carried out the training flights on August 4.

F-35B jets fired the 25mm cannon in coordination with MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and Navy MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters firing 7.62 mm machine guns to destroy the “killer tomato”, a large inflatable target used during live-fire exercises at sea.

In addition to employment of the GAU-22, the F-35B aircraft dropped a GBU-32 1,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition, and a GBU-12 Paveway II 500-pound laser-guided bomb on a first sortie.

After expending all ordnance, the aircraft returned to the Wasp, reloaded and refueled, and executed a second live-fire sortie, according to Maj. Jeffrey Davis, F-35B detachment officer-in-charge with VMM-265 (REIN).

“Successful execution of hot reload procedures while afloat demonstrates the 31st MEU’s ability to surge offensive air support for kinetic missions in the theatre, increasing available lethality for commanders,” said Davis.

The employment of the GAU-22 and the ordnance hot reloading comes on the heels of the 31st MEU’s execution of combined amphibious operations in Talisman Saber 2019, a biennial exercise for the US and Australia to sharpen their capabilities across a wide range of military operations. The 31st MEU is currently honing tactical and operational proficiency in simulated contested environments during a continuing deployment aboard the ships of the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, according to Col. Robert Brodie, commanding officer of the 31st MEU.

Photo: US Marine Corps

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