U.S. Marine Corps aircraft and personnel conduct distributed air operations; U.S. F-35s land in Sweden for the first time during Exercise Nordic Response 24

U.S. Marine Corps aircraft and personnel conduct distributed air operations; U.S. F-35s land in Sweden for the first time during Exercise Nordic Response 24

Four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 542, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), and KC-130J Super Hercules with Marine Corps aerial refueling. Transport Squadron (VMGR) 252, 2nd MAW conducted a distributed air operation (DAO) during Exercise Nordic Response 24 at Carax Air Base in Lulea, Sweden, March 13, 2024.

The event marked the first time a U.S. F-35 Lightning II jet had landed in Sweden, the first time an F-35 had operated at Carax Air Base, and one of the first training events conducted by Sweden as a NATO member. It became one.

“We are thrilled to welcome the first American F-35 to land here at Carax Air Base. It is a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B,” said Swedish Brig. General Tommy Peterson, Deputy Commander of the Swedish Air Force. “Of course, for the U.S. Marine Corps, this is part of the agile combat employment in the framework of the exercise we are currently conducting together, Nordic Response 24.”

The pre-planned event will feature U.S. Marine Corps air platforms utilizing Swedish air bases and host nation support to provide ground refueling by air transport from U.S. KC-130J Super Hercules to U.S. F-35B JSF aircraft. provided an opportunity to implement the

“Of course, this is of vital interest to Sweden as a new NATO ally, for example in further developing host country support capabilities for U.S. assets,” Peterson said.

Distributed air operations are a method of generating air combat power through the coordinated operation of air squadrons, command and control agencies, air logistics, and air ground support forces distributed across the battlefield to challenge enemy targeting efforts. . DAO’s 2nd MAW concept distributes command and control of air units throughout the command hierarchy, pushing authority to the lowest levels while allowing units to move between airfields. It also integrates and builds interdependence between the 2nd MAW and its allies and partners.

“This is an opportunity to work with our Swedish partners to practice distributed air operations,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Benedict, 2nd MAW commander. “We were able to put the aircraft into a NATO training attack package, retrieve it here in Sweden, refuel it with expeditionary means from a KC-130, and get it back in the air to sortie again. It’s a way for them to be able to operate in a protected environment because of their gender.”

Both VMFA-542 and VMGR-252 deployed from their home base at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. VMFA-542 is the U.S. Marine Corps’ first East Coast operational F-35 squadron. Exercise Nordic Response 24 was the first overseas exercise for VMFA-542 as part of the F-35B Lightning II jet squadron since achieving initial operational capability on February 5, 2024.

During the exercise, VMFA-542 advanced and sustained the squadron in core mission-critical missions of anti-aircraft warfare, active air defense, and hostile air defense while utilizing fifth-generation assets in sub-peer adversarial training exercises. , and advance the squadron toward full operational capability while enhancing its attack capabilities. The squadron demonstrated the breadth and diversity of the Joint Strike Fighter program, integrating with F-35 aircraft from NATO allies across Northern Europe, as well as the United Kingdom and Norway.

Throughout the exercise, VMGR-252 uses KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft to provide support for Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Forces, including providing cargo transport, combat attack transport, aerial refueling, and ground refueling by air for both the United States and allied nations. supported the goal. aircraft. They conducted air operations from expeditionary land bases and cold weather conditions to meet training objectives and improve crew and loadmaster proficiency.

Exercise Nordic Response 24 was a two-week exercise that brought together NATO allies and partners to demonstrate integrated military power across land, sea and air domains. Against the backdrop of difficult arctic and mountainous conditions, participating forces engaged in realistic military-to-military scenarios and demonstrated their capabilities in both offensive and defensive operations.

“Our allies and partners have lived in this region for a long time and have developed similar capabilities themselves,” Benedict said. “When we partner with our allies, we can do what we need to do better and learn from their experiences operating here. We are always better working together. We have the opportunity to get the best of both worlds as we bring our concepts and operations to life and learn together with our partners.”

Exercise Nordic Response 24 is a continuation of the record-breaking NATO exercise Steadfast Defender.

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