MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. --
Three pilots and one weapons systems officer assigned Marine Aircraft Group 31 will put their skills to the test as they complete Marine Division Tactics Course Aug. 3 – 25 aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
“MDTC provides F/A-18 aircrew with graduate-level education in air-to-air employment of the F/A- 18 Hornet,” said Maj. Michael Golike, an instructor pilot with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One. “Our students will be faced with scenarios and challenges they probably haven't seen before.”
Students are hand selected by their commands to attend MDTC, which is a prerequisite for Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course, the pinnacle of training for F/A-18 aircrews. Prior to attending MDTC, pilots must earn at least 400 flight hours in an F/A-18 and show their commands they have the skills to confidently manage their aircraft and formation.
“(MDTC) has three basic phases, an academic support package where instructors will provide high-level instruction on the latest tactics, techniques and procedures. After that we go to a simulator phase. This is where we take the students in the simulator and work on polishing their airmanship and employment techniques. We will fly missions over and over to ensure that our students (are proficient) before we start spending expensive flight time in the airspace,” Golike said. “(Next is the) flying phase–the big capstone for this (course) where they'll get multiple looks at different mission sets, largely geared toward that air-to-air environment.”
During the simulator and flying phases, pilots focus on offensive and defensive fighter maneuvering to gain an advantage over aerial opponents. Once flying, the pilots will go up against F-5 Tigers, F-21 Kfirs, Hawk Hunters and a Learjet. Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401, and the Airborne Tactical Advantage Company provide the adversary support.
Although the course wasn’t created for F-35s, often they will participate in the culminating event of the course where the F/A-18s and F-35s work together using a tactic known as “Fighter Integration.”
“FI is when the students are exposed to the concepts of when our 4th Generation F/A-18s are paired in mutually supportive but separate formations with 5th Generation F-35s to perform offensive and defensive counter air missions,” said Maj. Shannon Waller, the Officer-In-Charge of the Marine Aviation Training Support Site assigned to MAG-31. “This is a key exposure as several events in the follow on WTI course utilize FI, albeit at a much more challenging level.”
Overall, FI allows for services across the DoD to pair their current, more widely proliferated 4th Generation aircraft (FA-18, F-16, F-15) with the emerging 5th Generation capabilities (F-22/35), optimizing lethality and survivability against our enemies.
“We love coming to Beaufort to do this course, of all the places we get to go Beaufort provides us with some of the best support. We’re definitely excited to be here, and we always get a warm welcome,” Golike said.
U.S. Marine Corps story by SSgt. Brittney Vella