ABOARD USS BOXER -- USS Boxer (LHD 4) Expeditionary Strike Group’s current Western Pacific deployment brings the first ever “hot load” operations at sea.
A hot load operation is loading ordnance onto an aircraft with the engines running.
Aviation Ordnance Marines assigned to the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) have been hot loading UH-1N Huey and AH-1W Cobra helicopters during live-fire exercises while transiting to U.S. 5th Fleet.
BOXESG is the first strike group to conduct a hot load at sea because of their extensive training and preparation for the operation. According to Marine Chief Warrant Officer Scott Roland, ACE’s ordnance officer, BOXESG Marines and Sailors held many practice evolutions without live ordnance before the actual hot load operation.
"This is what makes us more proficient," said Roland. "It was great for our guys to get out and practice their skills."
Hot load operations at sea give BOXESG the capability of landing, refueling and reloading ordnance onto aircraft in one evolution.
"It’s the new, much more efficient way to load aircraft with ordnance," said Roland. "It keeps flight deck traffic to a minimum during combat operations, allowing schedule flexibility and faster turnaround time."
The operation requires complete coordination between Sailors and Marines on the flight deck to ensure a safe operation.
"It's important for everyone to know what’s going on," said Lt. j.g. William McCammon, Boxer’s air gunner. "There's a lot of moving parts and room for mishap, so it’s important we know exactly what's going on all the time."
Hot loading aircraft is a common evolution at shore-based facilities. Performing the operation at sea builds on the interoperability between Sailors and Marines.
"Introducing ordnance during flight operations at sea brings a new dimension of capabilities," said Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew Ivey, Staff Noncommissioned Officer in charge, ordnance section, HMM-165 (REIN). "Hot load operations sharpen Navy and Marine Corps air warfare."
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (REIN), along with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, and Combat Logistics Battalion 15 comprise the 15thMEU (SOC).
The 15thMEU (SOC) part of Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group aboard the USS Boxer (LHD 4), USS Dubuque, and the USS Comstock (LSD 45), is currently deployed in 5th Fleet’s area of operation.