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Marines perform pre-flight checks aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Jan. 22. The pilot of the aircraft is one of four aviators in the Marine Division Tactics Course. In MDTC, aviators from MAG-31 are taught to be experts in air-to-air maneuvering within visual range and beyond visual range. Murray is the scheduling officer with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115, MAG-31.

Photo by Cpl. Benjamin McDonald

MDTC in full swing, increasing aviators' proficiency

24 Jan 2018 | Cpl. Benjamin McDonald Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

Fightertown aviators continue full speed ahead as they progress in the four weeks Marine Division Tactics Course aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. After the first week of classroom instruction, the students are now taking to the sky for practical application and air-to-air maneuvers.

“This course is one pre-requisite among others to eventually go on to the WTI course,” said Maj. Nathan Weinberg, an MDTC instructor. “This course makes them proficient at air to air tactics. Upon completion of WTI, they will be experts on both air-to-air and air-to-ground tactics.”

Throughout this course, air-to-air tactics skills are honed, preparing the aviators for WTI. Both courses are challenging yet rewarding as they test the very best aviators and make them better.

 “The first week of MDTC is dedicated to academics,” said Weinberg. “Then the pilots spend a week doing dogfighting within visual range. The last two weeks are spent doing beyond visual range flights and simulations.”

The “Snipers” of Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 made the trip to MCAS Beaufort with their F-5 aircraft.

“We are the Marine Corps’ only adversary squadron,” said Maj. Benjamin Apple, the operations officer of VMFT-401. “What sets us apart from the defense contractors sometimes used by the Marine Corps is two things. It’s the aircraft we use and the fact that we are uniform wearing Marines. Adversary air is something we specialize in. We give the students a significantly smaller target than what they are used to. We study what the enemy does and we know what our pilots should be doing.”

The Snipers frequently visit MCAS Beaufort to provide adversary air training for the squadrons, but during this visit, their primary focus is to support MDTC.

“We have the pilots train with both offensive and defensive anti-aircraft warfare,” said Weinberg. “Essentially the pilots will either be attacking a simulated enemy asset or defending against an oncoming adversary force, protecting a friendly asset. The entire time they are flying, they are monitored by controllers who watch, record and analyze everything. When the pilots come back and have their debrief they need to know everything that happened during the exercise and learn from it.”

The commanding officers of each squadron select one aviator who meets a strict criterion and shows the most potential and aptitude to participate in MDTC. To be selected, the aviators need to have been a mission commander, have more than 500 hours of flight time, be a low altitude tactics instructor, and a fighter attack instructor.

 The course is a stride towards becoming a top aviator and subject matter expert within the F/A-18 Hornet community.

“We are honing pilots in air to air tactics maneuver and air superiority,” said Apple. “I always like coming and supporting MDTC. When I was a young aviator and going through the course I enjoyed working with the Sniper squadron back then and now I get to bring all of my knowledge to the next generation of top-tier aviators.”

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