Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. -- A new auxiliary landing field (ALF) located in the western region of Barry M. Goldwater Range was utilized for the first time as a simulated amphibious platform for AV-8B Harrier II pilots from Marine Attack Squadron-214 (VMA-214) stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Feb. 24.
“The facility has just been completed and it has come to the point where we can now land jets on it,” said Lt. Col. Andrew P. Diviney, the Marine Aircraft Group 13 (MAG-13) operations officer. “Although we don’t have all the lighting systems that we need to do full-up training, we wanted to get out here and demonstrate the capability that we can land an aircraft out here. A Harrier to start, we won’t be doing an F-35 for a little bit, but it’s proof of concept that we can land a jet out here.”
Baking in the searing heat of the Arizona desert, the two aircraft landing docks, Auxiliary Landing Field 2 (AUX-2) and ALF, exist to provide pilots with the training required to achieve their shipboard-landing qualifications.
“Before Harriers or F-35s deploy aboard Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU). They have to do practice landings [on land] before they can practice landing on the ship, and this is called field- carrier landing practice,” said Diviney. “So…the Harriers, and eventually the F-35s…will practice ship-landing here first, and then we go out to the actual ship and do our ship-landings.”
Although the first landing on the new landing field has happened, the facility is not yet fully operational. The previous landing dock, AUX-2, is still being used. However, there are some constraints for pilots utilizing it for training and qualifications.
Difficulties pilots face while utilizing AUX-2 is having cross winds, winds that cause pilots to cancel because of the difficulty of landing aircraft in high winds. Diviney explained that the brand new auxiliary landing field is bidirectional, with two decks facing north and south and allows for training that is not hindered by cross winds.
The new facility is currently supporting Harriers, but it is designed specifically for the F-35B Lightning II’s transition into full service. The new facility has more reliable capabilities to support operations than at AUX-2, explained Diviney.
As the new facility nears completion, personnel aboard MCAS Yuma look forward to ALF’s capability to qualify pilots more expediently.
“There’s lots of differences, the old AUX-2 is only one directional and is made of AM2 Matting, [metal matting that makes up the surface of some expeditionary landing pads]. [ALF] is full-up concrete and it has facilities that AUX-2 does not have. There are rooms, bathrooms, a maintenance hangar, some vehicle quads, and vehicle bays; there is a lot more support at this facility than at AUX-2.”
Overall, the expanded capabilities ALF brings will provide a better training environment for future generations of Marine Corps aviators.