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Pilots, maintainers train during MDTC

By Lance Cpl. Jonah Lovy | Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort | January 22, 2016

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The Marine Division Tactics Course began aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Jan. 11. The course provides F/A- 18 Hornet aircrew and Marine air intercept con­trollers with groundside and airborne instruction in doctrine, tactics and weap­ons considerations for the successful use of Marine fighter attack aircraft in combat.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401, and Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 are participating in the training.

“The course provides a graduate level air to air school for some of the finest fighter pilots in the fleet to attend and continue to sharpen and hone their skills,” said Capt. Rick Gallup, the pilot training officer for VMFA-122. “It is not just for Marines in Beaufort, Marines around the country can attend this course and learn as our tactics continue to evolve and change.”

The training is continuous and intense for the students who are comprised of pilots from the various squadrons. The training went from theory in classroom to practical application with the F/A-18 Hornets simulating combat air maneuvers against F-5N Tiger II aircraft.

The Tiger IIs from VMFT-401 play the role of the adversary squadron in the course. Based out of MCAS Yuma, VMFT-401 is a Marine Corps Reserve fighter squadron and belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing. The squadron brought eight F-5N Tiger II aircraft to support the pilots in training. Approximately 30 Marines made the trip along with the aircraft.

“The students start off in a one on one dogfighting environment then they transition to a two-on-two employment and then the last section of the course puts four pilots up against an unknown number of adversaries,” said Gallup. “The final test is applying division tactics to strike a target in hostile territory. They learn to fight their way in, drop air-to-ground ordnance, and then fight their way back out.”

The advanced air-to-air and self-escort strike tactics course is equivalent to the Navy’s Top Gun program and has a rigorous training schedule where pilots learn both in the classroom and in the sky. The arduous course is offered twice a year, once on the West Coast and once on the East Coast.

Pilots preparing to take the course go through an extensive training process. The best pilots are chosen and designated to represent their squadron. After the course, the pilots take what they have learned to pass on to their peers.

 “The pilots will come back to us and teach us the new standards for tactics and knowledge,” said Gallup. “This keeps us all up to date and mission ready.”

            The training is demanding and requires pilots to think quickly in uncertain situations. The purpose is to teach them to work together effectively to accomplish the mission.

“This course requires a lot of dedication and focus,” said Gallup. “Pilots need to have situational awareness about what is going on around them and look to employ not just their own aircraft but the division as a whole.”

The course serves as an opportunity to highlight individuals who stand out in their units. Pilots with talent and skill have the opportunity to further their military education and become mentors to their fellow aviators.

 “We have this opportunity to identify individuals with a lot of potential and give them excellent training so the entire Marine Corps can benefit,” said Gallup.


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