F-35B Lightning fighters from the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron have completed the first-ever air-to-air refueling with a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet during exercises in the Indo-Pacific.
The 617 Squadron jets are currently embarked aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of the Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment to the region.
The refueling occurred during exercises with US Navy aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson, and Japanese helicopter destroyer JS Ise (DDH-182).
As part of this interoperability training, the opportunity was taken to conduct what is known as buddy-buddy refueling. The F-35B Lightnings, flown by RAF and Royal Navy pilots, regularly carry out air-to-air refueling from RAF Voyager aircraft but this was the first time they had refueled from a US Navy fighter jet.
A Super Hornet configured with external fuel tanks and refueling equipment provided a valuable opportunity to carry out this training and enhance interoperability between UK and US aircraft carriers and their respective carrier-borne aircraft.
During the exercise RAF Marham based 617 Squadron also took the opportunity to conduct a joint fly past with US Navy and US Marine Corps jets over the combined fleet of carriers and their escorts.
The UK carrier strike group is now preparing for the return journey of the deployment through the Indian Ocean, Middle East and the Mediterranean. The return leg of the deployment will also feature several exercises with other nations.