News: Knights soar with Hawks during training
Story by Lance Cpl. Charles Clark
IWAKUNI, Japan - Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 pilots took to the skies here to execute evaluation exercises in accordance with Marine Corps standards May 17.
In 2006, the Marine Corps Training and Readiness Manual for its F/A-18D Hornet fleet was the first in the Marine Corps’ aviation community to mandate that a squadrons’ aircrew be tested by other squadrons’ training officers.
“We do this to keep a standardized level of performance across all the F/A-18D squadrons in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. George B. Rowell, VMFA(AW)-533 commanding officer. “Our aircrew is the best in the world because of this training.”
The evaluations provide all of the squadrons’ aircrews in the fleet with a level playing field to be tested.
“Our pilots did everything by the book and exceeded the pilot training officers’ expectations,” said Capt. Kevin J. Kelly, a VMFA(AW)-533 F/A-18D weapons system operator. “It’s always a pleasure working with professionals like the pilots in VMFA-314.”
Kelly’s job as a weapons system operator is to input coordinates into the weapons system and guide the ordnance to the selected target.
Each F/A-18D squadron that utilizes the two seat cockpit F/A-18D, has a weapons system operator.
The weapons system operator training officer shares the same responsibilities as the pilot training officer for the weapons system.
“The other squadrons’ pilot and weapons’ system training officers will fly with our guys during airto- air and air-to-ground missions,” Rowell said.
The test Kelly’s pilot went through was a flight that simulated protecting a carrier ship from an unknown threat.
“The threat turned out to be enemy aircraft that we were forced to engage,” Kelly said. “We protected the carrier and returned home safely.”
This test is one of many in a syllabus from the Training and Readiness Manual the pilots are required to perform in order to maintain their proficiency.
Other tests in the syllabus include: search and rescue, close-air support and aerial reconnaissance missions.
Pilot training officers create the training plan their squadrons need to complete to ensure their pilots are qualified to execute tactical air missions.
“I make sure the pilots are tested and have completed the performance syllabus,” said Capt. James C. Smith, the VMFA- 314 pilot training officer. “I will fly some other exercises in the syllabus with the VMFA(AW)-533 pilots to help them get their re-qualifications out of the way.”
VMFA(AW)-533 and VMFA-314’s interoperability testing maintains the Marine Corps F/A-18D aircrews’ edge in air superiority.