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F-35 put through refueling paces
- Click here to see more photos from this refueling flight
Some of the first Marine Corps F-35B pilots are getting practice in a routine but important task in the new plane: midair refueling.
Maj. Ty Bachmann, a test pilot, and Maj. Paul Holst, who is preparing to be an F-35 instructor, had a train-the-trainer day at Eglin Air Force Base Tuesday to run the first midair test of the aerial refueling systems on the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, which is expected to make its first appearance at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma later this year.
The pilots each took off in an F-35 from the coastal Florida Air Force base and flew about 50 to 75 miles off-shore before meeting up with a C-130 tanker out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., to replenish their fuel in the sky over the Gulf of Mexico.
The 300 gallons of fuel they took on wasn't much for a plane, but enough to show that the systems were solid and the training was effective.
Holst, an experienced pilot with about 1,800 hours in the F-18, said it was an overall similar refueling technique “The airplane and the tanker worked as advertised, and everything went really smoothly.”
Bachmann has been in the F-35, the next generation of fighter jets, for about four years. He's also familiar with the Harrier, the F-18, the F-16 and the Air Force variant of the F-35, the F-35A. He said the much-anticipated F-35 handles easier – “that's the way we designed it.”
“It's still got the new car smell,” Holst said. “It's got a little more get-up-and-go.”
Eglin, in northwest Florida, is where all the Marine Corps' Yuma-based F-35 pilots will be trained. Two Yuma pilots are already there and should be flying the Joint Strike Fighter themselves by the end of the month.
MCAS Yuma will eventually be home to 88 F-35Bs — five squadrons each with 16 aircraft, and one operational test and evaluation squadron of eight aircraft — with the first aircraft arriving later this year. The F-35s will replace Yuma's current squadrons of AV-8B Harriers.
The base recently completed its flight simulator facility, and a field-carrier landing practice training facility is under construction.
Hillary Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.