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Yuma Snipers train Miramar Sharpshooters in air-to-air combat

By Lance Cpl. Aaron Diamant | | August 20, 2009

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The Yuma-based Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 traveled to Miramar, Calif., to train in air-to-air combat Aug. 3-14.

The VMFT-401 Snipers travel all over the country to train pilots in air combat techniques and dogfighting.

The Snipers’ latest detachment tested the wits and skills of the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 Sharpshooters, as well as other Marine Aircraft Group 11 units, said Lt. Col. Timothy Frank, the Snipers’ commanding officer.

VMFT-401 is the Marine Corps’ only aggressor squadron, flying F-5N Tiger II aircraft painted in a unique Soviet-style camouflage. This paint scheme helps to differentiate the aircraft and adds a touch of realism to the training. 

The Sharpshooters train new pilots in the F/A-18 Hornet.

The Hornets have the speed and technology advantage. However, the maneuverability of the Tigers and the experience of the pilots gives the Snipers the edge, said Jeffrey Treffert, aircraft maintenance manager for Sikorsky, a civilian company that maintains the Snipers’ F-5s.

While at Miramar, the Snipers flew an average of 20 missions per day, flying a specific pattern as outlined by Sharpshooters’ training syllabus, said Frank.

The initial confrontations with student pilots were not as aggressive as with more experienced pilots, but the pace picked up as the student pilots progressed in training. It’s a crawl/walk/run approach, said Frank.

The Snipers allowed the student Sharpshooters to practice visual contacts as well as beyond-visual-range radar intercepts, said Frank.

The Snipers use tactics common to potential enemy aircraft and give pilots an accurate portrayal of what a dogfight with an enemy pilot may be like.

Going to the training unit’s home base gives Sniper pilots an opportunity to give face-to-face briefs and debriefs to student pilots, said Frank. This provides a better learning experience for the new pilots.

“These detachments are what our mission is about, to support Navy and Marine Corps units,” said Frank.


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