Cleared Hot: Checkerboards, Hawks aim in

6 Oct 2006 | Lance Cpl. Dane M. Horst

The Checkerboards of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 and the Hawks of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 had the chance to hone their combat skills with live ordnance off the Lowcountry coast Sept. 28.

Jets from VMFA-312 and VMFA(AW)-533 took to the skies armed with AIM-7 Sparrows and AIM-9 Sidewinders during a missile shoot held over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

“The purpose of the shoot was to provide tactical training for both the pilots and aircrew, as well as the ordnance and maintenance personnel,” said Capt. Hank Thomas, a Checkerboard pilot and a coordinator of the training.

Two firing blocks were conducted, one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

“We want to ensure all our aircrew have been exposed to employing live air-to-air missiles, and that we are prepared to not only destroy targets on the ground, but capable of destroying air-to-air threats as well,” said Lt. Col. Robert Boyles, the Hawks executive officer.

The aircrew attended mission briefs before each block, while their F/A-18 Hornets were being loaded with Sidewinder and Sparrow missiles at the Fightertown Combat Aircraft Loading Area.

“It felt great to load live ordnance on our jets,” said Lance Cpl. Patrick Ramos, a Checkerboard aviation ordnanceman. “It’s pretty exciting knowing our missiles will explode unlike routine training.”

After the Hornets left Fightertown, they flew off the coast over the Atlantic Ocean where they unleashed their missiles on targets consisting of flares and Tactical-Air-Launch Decoys dropped by the other Checkerboard and Hawk jets.

“Anytime you employ live ordnance it’s exciting and it helps give you confidence in your weapon systems and your ability to execute the mission that you’re tasked with,” said Capt. Scott Warman, a Hawks Weapons and Sensors officer.

This training helps prepare the aircrew for deployment, because when live missiles are employed, the weapon’s capabilities are seen in combat-like conditions, Warman explained.

“This exercise gave the aircrew, along with the maintainors, a real weapon to load, troubleshoot when something doesn’t work properly, then actually employ,” Thomas said.

The mission of this missile shoot was accomplished, according to Thomas.

“This was a success. We validated some of our training; the way we assess whether or not we successfully neutralized the enemy on normal training flights when we don’t have live missiles,” Thomas said.