26th STS partners with FARP, F-35A for next generation operations

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Joseph Pick
  • 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

If an aircraft is behind enemy lines and they are running low on fuel, a forward air refueling point may be considered to get that aircraft the fuel needed to carry out further missions and return home. 

Before a FARP can take place in hostile or denied territory, Special Tactics Airmen are called on to survey the area of interest to ensure an aircraft can land and be refueled, ultimately enabling options for assault and power projection in highly contested environments. 

Special Tactics teams can assess, open, and control major airfields to clandestine dirt strips in either permissive or hostile locations, providing strategic access for our nation’s military. 

For the first time, Airmen from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and Air Commandos from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron and the 27th Special Operation Logistics Readiness Squadron at Cannon AFB, N.M., trained and carried out a FARP operation from an MC-130J Commando II to an F-35A Lightning II.

“Our role was to simulate seizing, clearing and operating an austere airfield to marshal the MC-130J into position, guide the F-35’s into their FARP location, supervise safe fuel operations and get them back into the fight,” said a Special Tactics officer and troop commander with the 26th STS.

During this forward refueling scenario, an MC-130J landed at a remote airfield that was surveyed, secured and operated by an STT. The C-130 crew made up of loadmasters and fuels troops quickly set up equipment and fuel lines, then transferred fuel from the MC-130J to another aircraft behind them – in this case, an F-35A.

This training familiarized the STT with the Air Force’s fifth generation aircraft, ensuring they are prepared for today’s battlefield and ready to execute tomorrow’s global special operations. 

“Familiarization with any new battlefield technology bridges the gap between current TTPs [tactics, techniques and procedures] and tomorrow’s war,” the troop commander said. “Working with fifth generation fighters helps all parties learn how to integrate our unique capacities to become a more lethal force.”

Special Tactics is U.S. Special Operation Command’s tactical air and ground integration force, and the Air Force’s special operations ground force, leading global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery operations.

The training brought together pilots, maintainers, special operators and planners.

“Setting up a FARP gives us flexibility in planning because we now have the capability to land in a remote location, refuel, potentially re-arm and go take the fight to the enemy, and the F-35 can bring a lot to the fight.” said Lt. Col. Matthew Olsen, director of operations for the 421st Fighter Squadron and one of the F-35 pilots who flew to Cannon.

Editor’s Note: Information from a 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs article was used in this story.