The Marine Corps is looking to change tanker plans for long-distance F-35B sorties after a recent flight to Japan required too ?many refuelings, the head of Marine aviation said. In early January, the Marine Corps permanently deployed a squadron of F-35Bs to MCAS Iwakuni, marking a major milestone for the program (the first F-35s to be based overseas.) Four Air Force KC-10 Extenders helped the strike fighters make the long trip across the Pacific. The F-35s followed Air Force plans, which included flying through Alaska and not using drop fuel pods for the long distance flight. This, along with extended flight with the F-35Bs’ refueling probe exposed, meant the jets needed multiple refuelings, said Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the deputy commandant for aviation for the Marine Corps. Davis said the total number of refuelings was about double what he thought was needed. Going forward, the Marine Corps wants to work with USAF to update their plans and procedures for refueling to try to decrease the number of refuelings necessary, Davis said. A similar issue arose last summer when the Marine Corps sent an F-35B to Europe for the Royal International Air Tattoo in England.
The deployment to Iwakuni has been a success so far, with aircraft currently at a mission capable rate of 70 to 80 percent, Davis said. Six more F-35Bs are expected to arrive at Iwakuni this summer.