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Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 conduct night operations aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, July 20. The squadrons of Marine Aircraft Group 31 conduct day and night operations to maintain operational readiness 365 days a year.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Benjamin McDonald

VMFA-312 ready day or night

20 Jul 2017 | Lance Cpl. Benjamin McDonald Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 conducted field carrier landing practice aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort July 20.

The pilots with the Checkerboards practiced landing F/A-18C Hornet aircraft on a simulated aircraft carrier, to prepare for an upcoming exercise aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

“VMFA-312 is one of two squadrons within the Marine Corps that almost exclusively deploys aboard aircraft carriers,” said Capt. Cole Hatch, a pilot and the airframes officer in charge with VMFA-312. “This field carrier landing practice is going to give us the training that we need as pilots to go out in the upcoming months to land on aircraft carriers.”

The air station’s flightline is equipped with a painted outline simulating an aircraft carrier that the pilots utilize as a training aid prior to participating in training exercises or deployments aboard an actual carrier.

“The FCLPs aboard the air station allow our pilots to train in a controlled environment,” said Hatch. “This type of training is something that we do regularly. Each time we go out, it is important to get back in the right mindset. When we land on a carrier the aircraft is going roughly 150 miles per hour and there are only so many wires that the tail hook on the back of the aircraft can catch.”

According to Hatch who is a landing signals officer there are multiple factors that compromise a successful and safe landing aboard a carrier. The LSO communicates with the pilot and the pilot uses the Improved Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System, which is a highly precise landing aid that analyzes the glide slope of the incoming aircraft and the movement of the carrier.

“The training that these pilots are going to gain from this FCLP is that they are so precise with their aircraft that they can hit a two-by-two foot square with their tail hook,” said Hatch. “Our ability to conduct flight operations when embarked on an aircraft carrier is another tool for the Marine Corps to have the ability to exercise projection of power. The F-18 is a multi-role aircraft, but in the past ten years the Marine Corps has utilized it primarily for close air support. In the upcoming months, and years, we will continue to provide close air support for our ground units. Whether for training or a deployment we are mission ready to fill that role.”

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