MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, Okinawa - The pilot of the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft focuses on guiding the aircraft toward a KC-130J Super Hercules refueling aircraft for aerial refueling. With surgical precision, he captures the basket attached to a hose on the KC-130J, signaling a successful in-flight refueling mission.
Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced) executed two aerial refueling missions Oct. 30 and Nov. 7 off the southeast coast of Okinawa approximately 80 miles east of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
One mission was completed during the day while the other occurred at night to ensure the Marines are prepared to refuel no matter the time of day.
“We do this for both initial and proficiency training,” said Capt. Christopher M. Demars, the aviation safety officer with VMM-265 (REIN), currently assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “(Aerial) refueling helps us out when we have long missions where we don’t necessarily have the ability to carry the extra fuel with us.”
Aerial refueling missions using the Osprey add to the increased capabilities of the aircraft, allowing it to remain airborne for longer periods of time.
“This is a skill that is somewhat perishable because we don’t do it that often,” said Demars. “It is a skill that we must stay focused on to support the Marines on the ground with whatever they need, and stay on station longer.
“The more we can use the aircraft, the more support we can give to those Marines on the ground,” added Demars.
The unit executed dry refueling exercises leading up to the day and night flights.
“Prior to doing this, we will meet up with the KC-130 and do practice evolutions where we do not refuel, but take all the proper steps leading up to it,” said Demars. “It is good training for us and a very dynamic environment when you put two aircraft that close together. We mitigate any of the risk factors in it by doing this type of training and having all the practice we can.”
Pilots and crew chiefs faced new challenges as they trained for nighttime refueling flights, according to Maj. Brian Psolka, the operations officer with VMM-265 (REIN).
“During these operations, you are ultimately flying in close proximity to another aircraft,” said Psolka. “We must be able to have good crew resource management and communication due to the lowlight that we are flying in.”
Not only was the training beneficial for the pilots flying the aircraft, it also gave the crew chiefs a broad perspective on flying in different scenarios, according to Lance Cpl. Steven Martinez, a crew chief with VMM-265 (REIN).
“This was some really great training we got to do,” said Martinez. “It is very important to stay on top of these types of tasks. I would feel confident with my skills in a real-life scenario.”
Due to the Ospreys ability to refuel in air, many new capabilities are available for the squadron as a whole.
“We use aerial refueling quite often,” said Psolka. “Every time we transit to other (locations) whether that is (the Kingdom of) Thailand, Australia, or Guam. With this aircraft, we are able to travel much longer distances. The Osprey already has many capabilities, aerial refueling adds to these.”
The day and nighttime refueling left both the pilots and crew chiefs confident in their abilities and the capabilities of the Osprey, according to Demars.
“I really enjoy doing this type of training,” said Demars. “The Osprey has increased not only our own abilities, but also increases what we can do for the Marines on the ground.”