EAST CHINA SEA – Aircraft assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted forward arming and refueling ship (FARS) operations from amphibious assault ships USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and USS America (LHA 6) on March 16, 2023.
The F-35B Lightning II aircraft of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 launched from the Makin Island, landed on America to refuel and then concluded the sortie on Makin Island.
“The capabilities of an ARG-MEU team are incredible, but it adds another layer of operational effectiveness when assets from multiple ARGs, MEUs or ships are able to team up to conduct operations,” said Rear. Adm. Derek Trinque, commander, Task Force 76/3. “Flexing our ability to conduct FARS operations provides a greater operating radius of all our aircraft.”
These exercises validate amphibious ready group (ARG) concepts and improve integrated capabilities. FARS operations are based on the doctrinal concept of forward arming and refueling points (FARP). FARPs are transitory facilities that provide fuel and ordnance for combat aircraft. FARPs minimize response times, decrease turnaround times, and increase loiter times of those combat aircraft.
As FARPs are ground-based, afloat FARS operations enable concepts like littoral operations in a contested environment, expeditionary advance bases operations, and distributed maritime operations depending on the situation. FARS operations could also support humanitarian aid and disaster response, and non-combatant evacuation operations.
“Over the past few decades, FARPs have been greatly used as the Marine Corps supported operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Col. Samuel Meyer, commanding officer, 13th MEU. “As our focus shifts to the Indo-Pacific region, the geography of the western Pacific requires a different construct of operations. These operations demonstrate the ARG-MEU amphibious capability and are not land-based. Marines and Sailors on these L-class ships can project power anywhere at any time for the joint force.”
In addition to the FARS operations, the F-35s joined up with EA-18G Growlers from Navy Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 135, assigned to Carrier Air Wing 5, and conducted training with the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67) and the Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93).
The Makin Island ARG, comprised of Makin Island and amphibious transport docks USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) and USS Anchorage (LPD 23), is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations with the embarked 13th MEU to enhance interoperability with Allies and partners and serves as a ready-response force to defend peace and maintain stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with Allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.