MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Four squadrons from Marine Aircraft Group 31 conducted a live missile shoot at the Combat Aircraft Loading Area aboard the Air Station Sept. 20 through Sept. 22.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons 115 and 251, and Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadrons 224 and 533 participated in the exercise.
The exercise, which is generally held once every year, was used to train both the aircrew and the ordnance Marines of each squadron.
“The purpose of this exercise is two-fold,” said Maj. George Rowell, the MAG-31 training officer. “It will increase our proficiency in the use of live air-to-air missiles, and will increase the ordnance Marines’ proficiency in the loading and maintenance of these live missiles.”
“It really reinforces the correct switchology, radar mechanics and correct delivery parameters when shooting missiles,” said Rowell.
The squadrons used three different types of missiles during the exercise. including AIM-7 Sparrows, AIM-9 Sidewinders, and AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles, according to Rowell.
The AIM-7 and AIM-120 are radar-guided missiles, while the AIM-9 is a heat-seeking missile, according to Rowell.
The missiles were loaded onto the aircraft in the CALA, but the actual firing of the missiles occurred approximately 60 miles east of the Air Station, over the Atlantic Ocean, according to Maj. John Pylant, the operations officer for VMFA (AW)-224.
Once the aircraft were over the target area, a decoy would be launched. When firing a radar-guided missile, a Tactical Air Launched Decoy was used, and a flare was used when firing a heat-seeking missile, according to Rowell.
The pilots of all four squadrons were very successful in engaging the decoys.
“It’s gone very well so far. Everyone has been getting the missiles off and hitting the targets,” said 1st Lt. Brad Dubinsky, a pilot from VMFA-251.
The maintenance and ordnance Marines from the squadrons and MALS-31 played a large part in the training, and the missile shoot would not have been possible without them, according to Rowell.
Aircraft maintenance and ordnance Marines were at the CALA hours before any jets took off, ensuring vital systems in each aircraft were working properly and that missiles were loaded correctly.
“The ordies were out there working very hard,” Pylant said. “That the missiles worked as well as they did is a testament to their hard work.”
While the missile shoot was an important training exercise, it is just a small part of the annual training that pilots and ordnance Marines receive, according to Rowell.
“This is a very small part of our training,” Rowell said. “But because it involves live ordinance, it requires a lot of coordination and planning.”
The missile shoot was a couple of weeks in the making, according to Pylant. The air crew first had to sit through classes and then went through the whole exercise in simulators. Air crew members also had to go through a brief before each launch.
Overall, the exercise was enjoyed by all the Marines involved.
“It’s been great,” Rowell said. “We had a lot of luck with the weather conditions and such. But it wasn’t luck with the missiles, just a lot of hard work.”