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A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II jet with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 542, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, lands in preparation for Exercise Nordic Response 24 in Norway, Feb. 16, 2024. Exercise Nordic Response, formerly known as Cold Response, is a NATO training event conducted every two years to promote military competency in arctic environments and to foster interoperability between the U.S. Marine Corps and allied nations. Exercise Nordic Response 24 is VMFA-542's first overseas operational exercise as an F-35B Lightning II jet squadron. ( (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Orlanys Diaz Figueroa)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Orlanys Diaz Figueroa

U.S. Marine Corps aircraft arrive in Norway for Exercise Nordic Response 24

8 Mar 2024 | Story by Maj. Melanie Salinas 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing

U.S. Marine Corps aircraft and personnel from three flying squadrons with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), II Marine Expeditionary Force, arrived in Norway, Feb. 16-25, in preparation for Exercise Nordic Response 24.

The 2nd MAW deployed F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 542, F/A-18 Hornets with VMFA-312, and KC-130J Super Hercules with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 252. Both VMFA-542 and VMGR-252 deployed from their home base of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, North Carolina, and VMFA-312 deployed from their home base of MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina.

“I am extremely proud of the Marines and Sailors of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 14 forward deployed,” said Col. James Bardo, commanding officer of MAG-14 and overseeing the flying squadrons during the exercise. “They have executed this deployment to Norway exceptionally well and are ready to begin the exercise.”

Exercise Nordic Response 24 is VMFA-542's first overseas exercise as an F-35B Lightning II jet squadron and first exercise since achieving initial operational capability on Feb. 5. Initial operational capability means that VMFA-542 has enough operational F-35B Lightning II aircraft, trained pilots, maintainers, and support equipment to self-sustain its mission essential tasks (METs).

During the exercise in March, VMFA-542 will employ its fifth-generation assets in a near-peer adversary training exercise while advancing and sustaining the squadron in core METs of anti-air warfare, active air defense, suppression-of-enemy air defense, and strike capabilities while progressing the squadron toward full operational capability. The squadron will integrate with NATO allies across Northern Europe and with United Kingdom and Norwegian F-35 aircraft, showcasing the breadth and diversity of the Joint Strike Fighter program.

VMFA-312 will employ its F/A-18C and F/A-18D Hornets to support combined military air operations and unit-level training during the exercise, further increasing their cold-weather capabilities and proficiency, aircrew qualifications, and refining concepts of distributed aviation operations.

Throughout the deployment, VMGR-252 will employ its KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft to support Marine Air-Ground Task Force objectives such as providing transportation of cargo, combat-assault transport, aerial refueling, and aviation-delivered ground refueling. They will conduct aviation operations from expeditionary shore-based sites and cold-weather conditions to achieve training objectives and increase aircrew and loadmaster proficiencies.

“Marines fight in every clime and place, and our squadrons are well prepared for the challenges of operating in this environment,” said Bardo. “The lessons learned in this exercise will further strengthen the close partnership we have with our NATO allies and partners in the high north.”

Exercise Nordic Response 24 is a two-week exercise that brings together NATO allies and partners for a comprehensive demonstration of military prowess across land, maritime, and aviation domains. Against the backdrop of challenging arctic and mountainous conditions, participating military forces will engage in realistic force-on-force scenarios, showcasing their capabilities in both offensive and defensive operations.

“We are extremely grateful for the very gracious welcome from our Norwegian hosts,” said Bardo. “Our Marines and Sailors are excited for the opportunity to train alongside our NATO allies and partners during Nordic Response 24.”

Exercise Nordic Response 24 is a continuation of the record-breaking NATO exercise Steadfast Defender.