KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --
The 909th Air Refueling Squadron conducted the inaugural aerial-refueling mission with F-35B Lightning IIs from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, March 14, over the Pacific Ocean.
This is the first time the 909th ARS performed air-to-air refueling with F-35B’s within their area of operation, making the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 one of 26 flying units currently supported by the 18th Wing. Kadena AB also delivers fuel to aircraft from the U.S. Navy and Republic of Korea Air Force.
“The way we operate between services is almost transparent,” said Capt. Erik Cadorette, 909th ARS pilot. “We're not going to operate any differently if are working with our sister services or our allies. They can request gas from us at any point and there's not a lot to change in order for us to work with them.”
The F-35s conducted a permanent change of station to the Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force in January. They are fifth-generation fighters and the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft.
The inaugural mission was a key step toward supporting the fifth-generation fighters, said Caddorette. He added that the initial training experience was a valuable opportunity for his aircrew because it enables them to prepare other pilots and boom operators for future F-35 operations.
The 909th’s motto is ‘always there,’ symbolizing their unwavering presence and readiness to support partners who protect and stabilize the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.
Stratotankers have provided the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force for nearly 60 years and have empowered fighter aircraft for generations, from the F-4 Phantom to today’s most advanced weapon systems.
“It is crazy to realize that we’ve got these KC-135 that have been made in the late 50’s and early 60’s and are still capable of meeting up with these new F-35s,” said Capt. Matt Davis, 909th ARS pilot. “It's a tale of two worlds for sure.”