NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, NEV. --
Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 3, from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, recently deployed to the Nevada desert to participate in Red Flag 10-4, which is a two-week advanced aerial combat training exercise, hosted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 15-30.
More than 100 Marines from VMAQ-3 with six of their EA-6B Prowlers trained with aircraft and service members from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Singapore and the U.S. Air Force in the multi-national training exercise.
Throughout the exercise, U.S. Air Force KC-135R Tankers conducted in-flight refueling for most aircraft, to include Prowlers.
“We fight as a joint force, so it is important that we train as a joint force,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Andrew P. Bowers, KC-135R pilot with the 22nd Air Refueling Wing out of McConnell AFB, Kan.
There are a lot of different refueling platforms explained Maj. William A. Schutz, executive officer for VMAQ-3.
“They’re all pretty similar, but some can be harder than others because of basket sizes, or positioning on the aircraft.”
A Prowler requires a basket mechanism to be attached to the Tankers boom valve, which is a maneuverable valve that extends from the tail end of the aircraft. The basket gives the Prowlers’ approximate four-foot probe, located on the nose, a more flexible target area for the two valves to connect and begin the refueling.
“We’re a force extender,” said Bowers. “We can take any aircraft and allow it to travel anywhere around the globe, and in combat we can refuel anybody we’re asked to refuel.”
Schutz said, “A Prowler usually needs to be able to refuel to get to where the mission is occurring, extending its range and allowing it to stay out longer.”
In flight refueling isn’t a self service process in regards to pumping ones’ own gas. The Tanker’s boom operator handles those duties.
“I’m the one who is actually putting the fuel into the aircraft, allowing them to continue their mission,” said Senior Airman Justin M. Miller, KC-135R boom operator, 22nd Air Refueling Wing out of McConnell AFB, Kan.
“The first time I saw a Prowler, I thought it was pretty cool looking at four guys down in the cockpit.”
Each day throughout Red Flag, the participating countries have collectively worked together.
“Whether we’re refueling Pakistani, Navy, Air Force or Marine pilots, in our eyes they’re all great and up there solid as a rock with us,” said Bowers. “We’re gaining familiarity with different ability levels, different accents, different traditions and different expectations.”
Nellis Air Force Base concluded Red Flag successfully with the last training flight ending July 30, and VMAQ-3 returned to MCAS Cherry Point Aug.2.