Located at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in the Yamaguchi Prefecture of Japan, VMGR-152 sits as the most forward deployed KC-130 Hercules unit in the entire USMC. Because of their location and the incredible versatility of the KC-130J Super Hercules, one day they can be delivering humanitarian aid to a tiny island airstrip and the next day they could be refueling thirsty combat aircraft.
Like their Navy counterparts of CVW-5 that flies off the forward deployed USS George Washington, aviators of of VMGR-152 are some of the best 'Combat Herk' crews in the world. The squadron has won many unit citations and medals and is known for their ability to fly safely even in some of the most challenging conditions in the world. In fact, the squadron has surpassed a jaw-dropping 300,000 hours without a major mishap.
The Sumos, who have been operating almost continuously in the Pacific under various designations since WWII, with most of that time being spent stationed in Japan, made a move from their former home at MCAS Futenma on the island of Okinawa, to their new home at MCAS Iwakuni just this year. The move was part of a continuing process to limit the environmental and noise impact of US combat aircraft operations on the island of Okinawa. As a result, MCAS Iwakuni has more than doubled in size in just the last couple of years, with VMFA(AW)-242 'Bats' and their F/A-18D Hornets cohabiting with the Sumos' 15 KC-130J Super Hercules. The base also houses a gaggle of P-3 Orions as well as constant deployments of Marine helicopters and a tactical aircraft as part of Marine Aircraft Group 12.
The crazy amount of missions that the KC-130J can accomplish make it one of the most flexible air power assets in the region and a huge value for the Marines. Some of these missions include: Air drops of both material and personnel, aerial refueling everything from helicopters to fighter jets, transport both on a tactical and strategic level, search and rescue, disaster relief, low-altitude interdiction, working as an ammo and gas truck for forward arming and refueling points.
Even close air support and battlefield surveillance can be accomplished by the KC-130J when a 'Harvest Hawk' kit is installed. In the future, the ability to directly attack targets with an automatic 30mm Bushmaster cannon installed in the aircraft's rear troop door is a possibility.
Considering that the KC-130J can do all this from unprepared airfields that would rattle other transport aircraft apart is simply outstanding and its ability to operate in a dispersed fashion during an area denial/anti-access combat scenario represents real strategic value. In other words, the Super Hercules ability to gain access to austere locales, and to sustain operations from those locations, provides a huge wild card for combat commanders in the Pacific Theater.
With the arrival of the MV-22 Osprey in Japan recently, the Sumos have a new capability to pair and train with. The ability for the Osprey to forward deploy troops virtually anywhere in the world, even to areas that a KC-130J cannot access, paired with the KC-130J's ability to refuel and support them over long distances, brings a whole new agility to American combat capability and humanitarian response operations in the region.
Like all the other US forces forward deployed to the Pacific Theater, the Sumos represent 'the tip of the spear' for the US in the region and would be the first to see action should the requirement arise, whether it be for supporting peer-state combat or humanitarian relief. Because of all the needs of forces in the region and the high level of training they all constantly require, VMGR-152 is said to be the busiest Hercules squadron in the Marine Corps, but at least they are not too busy to forget to capture their feats on video for all of us to enjoy.
Great work guys and keep the videos coming!
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com