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Future Naval Aviators, T-45s train aboard Fightertown

By Sgt. Dengrier Baez | Marine Aircraft Group 31 | September 17, 2015


Two Navy training air wings and their aircraft are operating aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Sept. 11-20. T-45 Goshawks with Training Air Wing 1 from Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss. and TRAWING-2 from NAS Kingsville, Texas,  trained aboard MCAS Beaufort to meet their requirements. 

 The units chose the air station due to a temporary closure of their main training site, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fl. Because of the construction at NAS Jacksonville, all of the aircraft were shifted to Cecil Field, Fl. where the units operate. 

 Aside from the construction, the aircraft carrier, USS Truman, is conducting pre-deployment work ups. All activity happening in the area makes the Jacksonville air space extremely congested.

 “We picked this field for a few reasons,” said Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Petres, Training Squadron 22 operations officer. “MCAS Beaufort has the most space and all the right facilities. It’s a military field, it has arresting gear, and it’s an air station that is built for jets. Also the air space is fairly uncongested here.” 

 Manufactured by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) and British Aerospace (now BAE Systems), the T-45 is used by the Navy as an aircraft carrier-capable trainer. The T-45 Goshawk is a fully carrier-capable version of the British Aerospace Hawk Mk-60. It was developed as a jet flight trainer for the Navy and Marine Corps. 

 The T-45 is being used for the advanced portion of the Navy and Marine Corps Student Naval Aviator strike pilot training program with both TRAWINGs.

 “We’re built for this mission,” said Petres. “We’re it for aircraft carrier training and that’s what the T-45 is specialized to do. I think the T-45 is pretty effective; it’s been doing the mission since the mid-90s.” 

 “Because of the T-45’s effectiveness, most Naval Air commands with other countries send their pilots to train with these TRAWINGs," said Petres. "The French, Brazilians and the Indian Navy all send their students to the U.S. to do their first aircraft carrier landings and then we have a split between U.S. Marine students and U.S. Navy students.”

 Training includes classroom instruction, field carrier landing practice aboard MCAS Beaufort, and carrier qualifications aboard a Navy ship. All students and instructor pilots will adhere to the same flight regulations as the permanently stationed F/A-18 and F-35 squadrons.

 “The air station has been very helpful and receptive to us,” said Petres. “Not only the air space off the coast, but also the air space around the air field is relatively uncongested. It’s been virtually flawless for us to come here.” 

 The TRAWINGs are utilizing the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 facilities during their time at the air station. VMFA-251 is currently deployed aboard the USS Roosevelt as part of the U.S. Fifth Fleet. 

 Both TRAWINGs are responsible for providing the fleet with newly winged Navy and Marine Corps aviators.

 “In order to supply the fleet replacement squadron and keep the pipeline going we have to produce students,” said Peters. “This detachment is particularly important because we haven’t had a carrier qualification detachment since May of this year. Normally we have one every two months but it’s been longer than that.”

 MCAS Beaufort is happy to host the TRAWINGs as they continue to produce the best and most qualified Naval Aviators.
 “We’re glad we can host these Marines,” said Sgt. Kristine Rathael, an aviation operations specialist with Marine Air Craft Group 31. “We have the facilities to accommodate them and to give these young pilots a chance to expand their knowledge.”