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Yuma's Tomcats fly simulated station strike exercise

By Lance Cpl. Austin Hazard | | September 17, 2009

Yuma’s Marine Attack Squadron 311 participated in a precision strike exercise over the Barry M. Goldwater Range southeast of the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., with support from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323's F-18 Hornets from Miramar, Calif., Sept. 3, 2009.

The Tomcats’ objective was to strike various locations throughout the air station with virtual ordnance, while sustaining no losses. The station was defended by four F-5 Tiger IIs from Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401, simulating Russian-built MiG-29s.

No real ammunition or ordnance was used in the exercise. Instead, the aircraft used radar to verify locks on enemy targets and radioed verbal confirmation when the aircraft was effectively defeated.

“It’s not a common exercise for the squadron to be a part of,” said Capt. Eric Hugg, VMA-311 pilot who flew in the exercise. “Half of the Harrier pilots in the exercise have never been involved in a large-force exercise until now.”

 Sixteen aircraft were airborne for the exercise, which is more than the station’s Harrier squadrons typically see in their training.

“The purpose of an LFE is to improve proficiency when working with large amounts of aircraft,” said Hugg. “It helps with mission planning and coordination.”

The exercise kicked off at 12:03 p.m. with two teams of four AV-8B Harriers escorted by four F-18s. The group, which was pretending to have launched from Phoenix, flew east before turning around and heading back toward Yuma.

The Harriers remained in a holding pattern at the eastern end of the station’s ranges, while the Hornets swept westward for threats.

After confirming enemy aircraft, the Hornets engaged four F-5s in a 15-minute dogfight. Once all threats were neutralized, the F-18 escorts gave the go-ahead to VMA-311.

At 12:20 p.m., the two Harrier teams pushed west to strike their targets. The mission was a success, with more than 25 virtual bombs dropped, each accurately hitting its mark.

“I thought it went extremely smoothly,” said Hugg. “It was well planned, well coordinated and well executed.”

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