MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Nine F-5B Tiger II from Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 are aboard the Air Station providing simulated combat exercises for the F/A-18 Hornets of Marine Aircraft Group 31.
The Tiger II of VMFT-401 is one of the fastest aircraft in the military. They are used throughout the Marine Corps as trainers for combat operations because of their maneuvering capabilities and fast air speed.
While aboard Fightertown, the squadron will be training with the Hornet squadrons of MAG-31 and will be using Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251’s hangar to park and repair their aircraft.
“We come out here about once a year to do these flight operations,” said Mike Brunkel, civilian aircraft maintainer, VMFT-401. “We get to meet a lot of new people and show them what a great job our aircraft do at simulating foreign enemy aircraft.”
The Tiger II of VMFT-401 are operated by Sikorsky Support Services Inc., a company based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. It is one of many civilian organizations contracted to build a majority of military aircraft, such as the CH-46 Sea Knights and CH-53 Sea Stallion.
About 25 of the squadron’s employees will be aboard the Air Station while the Tiger II’s are training with the Hornets this month. Many of the company’s employees are also prior service members who worked on AV-8B Harriers or F/A-18 Hornets while they were in the military.
“I was in the Marine Corps for almost nine years before I started working for Skiorsky,” said Christian V. Lukavsky, flight line electrician, VMFT-401. “Even though I’m not in the military any more, I still like working on the aircraft. I think that’s one of the reasons I like working on the Tigers so much.”
During the year, VMFT-401 pilots travel to various military bases and train with several types of aircraft for war operations.
“I love being able to travel and do my job,” said Steven B. Corrie, flight line electrician, VMFT-401. “I enjoy being down here in Beaufort, it’s a nice weather break from the heat of Arizona.”
Recently, the squadron visited Marine, Navy, and Air Force bases in Nellis, Ariz., and Key West, Fla. to practice many of the maneuvers they will be using while in Fightertown.
“I think when we go out it and work at these places we give a realistic look at the maneuvers of foreign enemy aircraft,” Corrie said.
The Lowcountry offers a different work environment for some of the technicians.
“Everyone we’ve met has shown us a great deal of ‘Southern hospitality,’” Lukavsky said. “I will definitely come back and visit.”