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An MV-22B Osprey connects to the refueling hose of a KC-130J Hercules, during aerial refueling training Sept. 23, 2012. Both aircraft are with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (Reinforced), the aviation combat element for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and conducted aerial refueling training to practice the skills needed for long-range flight operations. The 24th MEU is deployed with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group as a theater reserve and crisis response force for U.S. Central Command in the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Photo by Cpl. Michael Petersheim

Gas station in the sky - 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit pushes the range of amphibious reach with aerial refueling capability

23 Sep 2012 | Capt. Robert Shuford 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

When most people think of amphibious operations they still garner visions of World War II-era assaults on heavily defended beaches. This couldn’t be farther from the truth for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Throughout its work-up training cycle and now in the sixth month of a deployment, the 24th MEU has continued to push the preconceived limits of its amphibious reach using the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft paired with its KC-130J Hercules refueling and transport planes.

According to the 24th MEU’s commanding officer, Col. Frank Donovan, the KC-130J’s aerial refueling capability greatly enhances the MEU’s crisis response capabilities. With 22 of the 29 aircraft in the MEU having refueling probes, this means much more than just the marriage of the new Osprey with the KC-130J. The MEU’s CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters and AV-8B Harrier jets also utilize the refueling ability of the KC-130J.

The use of aerial refueling platforms could allow the Marines to essentially fly uninterrupted as long as they have gas – removing all other factors like crew rest or other flight restrictions.

“The professionals of our KC-130J detachment maximize the range, speed and lethality of our MV-22s, AV-8Bs and CH-53Es,” said Donovan.
Donovan explained that this increased capability would be critical in responding to contingencies like the recent uprisings that took place throughout the Middle East, and provides higher commands more options for crisis response utilizing the MEU.

“Our ability to reach U.S. embassies and American citizens in trouble over 400 nautical miles from the coast is greatly enhanced by our KC-130Js and demonstrates the value of our expeditionary Marine Air Ground Task Force operating from the sea,” said Donovan.