F-35B Hot Loads With AIM-120’s
Hot-loading is when an aircraft lands and has ordnance loaded while the engine is still running. Marines from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 conducted a hot-load in F-35B Lightning II’s at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. on Sept. 21, 2017. This hot-load was conducted using AMRAMM AIM-120 missiles. VMFA-121 is a part of Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
The exercise was a validation/verification conducted during Weapons and Tactics Instructors course 1-18. WTI is an exercise that takes service members from all over the world in a joint training exercise for mission readiness. WTI is hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron one.
“They will now have a publication to use,” said Cpl. Matthew Donovan an aviation ordnance technician with VMFA-121. “We took it out there and we validated it. We know it works so now in the future they will have it in writing.”
The hot-load exercise was conducted to ensure both pilots and ground crew have a real example of operations should those units deploy. The F-35B’s were loaded with the AIM-120 missile and took off horizontally immediately after.
The AMRAMM AIM-120 is an air-to-air missile that will be used in conjunction with a Tactical Air Launch Decoy. The TALD was loaded onto an AV-8B Harrier II to be launched and used as a target for the AIM-120. The TALD is an expendable glide vehicle that can mimic the heat and radar signatures of a full-sized aircraft.
“You can't shoot an air-to-air missile unless you have something to shoot at,” said Donovan. “The TALD is just a glider that comes off of the Harrier and then it glides straight and the Harrier moves out of the way.”
Donovan said the AIM-120 is the only missile currently in the F-35’s arsenal for the Marine Corps.
This hot-load exercise is to verify theory and validate publication and give the Marines involved a chance to load live ordnance while the aircraft is still hot. While the F-35B has been loaded hot before, this is the first time it has been conducted with these air-to-air missiles.