4

Jan

2016

One team: U.S. Marines help certify Spanish pilots

By Staff Sgt. Vitaliy Rusavskiy, Marine Corps Forces Europe


A Eurofighter Typhoon with the Spanish Air Force receives fuel from a U.S. Marine KC-130J Hercules with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, August 13, in Spain. A total of five Spanish pilots and their aircraft had the opportunity to practice their air-to-air refueling skills with the Marines from SPMAGTF-CR-AF. While this particular training was a first for the two countries, the U.S. and Spain work together routinely, fostering one of the closest defense partnerships around the world.
US Marines fuel Spanish fighters mid-flight
A Eurofighter Typhoon with the Spanish Air Force receives fuel from a U.S. Marine KC-130J Hercules with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, August 13, in Spain. A total of five Spanish pilots and their aircraft had the opportunity to practice their air-to-air refueling skills with the Marines from SPMAGTF-CR-AF. While this particular training was a first for the two countries, the U.S. and Spain work together routinely, fostering one of the closest defense partnerships around the world.
U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa coordinate an aerial refueling mission with pilots from the Spanish Air Force, Aug. 13, at Morón Air Base, Spain. Five Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons and a KC-130J Hercules from SPMAGTF-CR-AF successfully conducted a refueling of the Spanish aircraft for the first time highlighting a mutual commitment to working together as allies.
US Marines fuel Spanish fighters mid-flight
U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa coordinate an aerial refueling mission with pilots from the Spanish Air Force, Aug. 13, at Morón Air Base, Spain. Five Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons and a KC-130J Hercules from SPMAGTF-CR-AF successfully conducted a refueling of the Spanish aircraft for the first time highlighting a mutual commitment to working together as allies.
Three Eurofighter Typhoons with the Spanish Air Force escort a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules during an aerial refueling mission, Aug. 13, in Spain. Bilateral exercises such as this one are how Spain and the U.S. foster one of the closest defense partnerships around the world.
US Marines fuel Spanish fighters mid-flight
Three Eurofighter Typhoons with the Spanish Air Force escort a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules during an aerial refueling mission, Aug. 13, in Spain. Bilateral exercises such as this one are how Spain and the U.S. foster one of the closest defense partnerships around the world.
U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa fly an aerial refueling mission with pilots from the Spanish Air Force, Aug. 13, near Morón Air Base, Spain. While this particular training was a first for the two countries, the U.S. and Spain work together routinely, fostering one of the closest defense partnerships around the world.
US Marines fuel Spanish fighters mid-flight
U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa fly an aerial refueling mission with pilots from the Spanish Air Force, Aug. 13, near Morón Air Base, Spain. While this particular training was a first for the two countries, the U.S. and Spain work together routinely, fostering one of the closest defense partnerships around the world.
A Eurofighter Typhoon with the Spanish Air Force based out of Morón Air Base, Spain, refuels from a KC-130J Hercules, a first for the Marines from Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, Aug. 13, in Spain. The U.S. and Spain have been fostering one of the closest defense partnerships around the world for more than 60 years.
US Marines fuel Spanish fighters mid-flight
A Eurofighter Typhoon with the Spanish Air Force based out of Morón Air Base, Spain, refuels from a KC-130J Hercules, a first for the Marines from Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, Aug. 13, in Spain. The U.S. and Spain have been fostering one of the closest defense partnerships around the world for more than 60 years.
MORÓN AIR BASE, Spain -- Refueling MV-22B Ospreys is nothing new for a U.S. Marine KC-130J Hercules crew, but providing almost half a million pounds of fuel to more than 50 Spanish aircraft is not standard.

That’s exactly what the detachment of U.S. Marine KC-130J Hercules with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa achieved in less than six months during their deployment to Morón Air Base, Spain.

During these ‘sorties’, Spanish pilots earned their NATO aerial refueling certifications, continuing the strong defense relationships between U.S., Spain and other NATO allies.

“We normally provide logistical support, assault landings, expeditionary operations and air-to-air refueling to the Ospreys,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Ryan Gibbons, a pilot with SPMAGTF-CR-AF. “Refueling Spanish jets provided additional bilateral opportunities for us and Spanish fixed-wing aircraft consisting of E/F-18 Hornets, AV-8 Harriers and EF-2000 Eurofighters.”

Previous detachments have trained with the Spanish pilots, but it was all dry-plug – no fuel was transferred from the KC-130J Hercules. The current rotation of Marines was the first detachment approved to fuel Spanish aircraft.

“Apart from Spanish pilots receiving their certifications, air-to-air refueling provides our pilots with training and readiness proficiency, not just for tilt-rotor aircraft, but also for fixed wing as well,” said Gibbons, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina. “It is also provides us an opportunity to conduct missions based on pure NATO standards when refueling Spanish aircraft.”

Gibbons, commissioned in 2008, takes great pleasure being a pilot, describing a very independent environment being a flight commander, building relationships and trust with his air crew and exercising leadership, which he says is sometimes difficult being in aviation.

“It’s one of the rare opportunities where you get to take a plane on the road, sometimes thousands miles away, several time zones away from your home station and ultimately, you are the arbiter of all decisions made with the aircrew, the plane, and the mission,” he adds. “It always keeps you busy and I enjoy a challenge.”

In 2016, the Marines are looking forward to working with the Spanish Air Force and Navy, possibly expanding their refueling capabilities into the Canary Islands as well as supporting future exercises.

The air-to-air refueling missions are great for building rapport with our Spanish allies and we are excited to continue this relationship, said Gibbons.