News: Sharp shooting: VMM-165 conducts tail-gunnery training
Story by Lance Cpl. Michelle Piehl
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. – Marines conduct annual training on the range in order to keep skills sharp and prepared for combat. For members of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 “White Knights,” targets are not standard paper-targets, but rather, a simulated enemy territory hundreds of feet below.
Pilots and crew members of VMM-165 conducted section tail-gunnery flight training on the Yuma Range Training Complex east of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., June 5.
Maintaining communication during the flight ensures the most efficient and effective means of firing a GAU-16/A machine gun.
The pilots give the location of targets to crew members, as well as giving the command to begin and cease fire, explained Sgt. Denver M. Alsup, a crew chief with VMM-165 and a Fair Grove, Mo., native.
“The [MV-22B] is an assault-support aircraft, and as such, needs a defensive capability,” said Maj. Thomas W. Kershul, an MV-22B Osprey pilot with VMM-165. “We need to have defensive capabilities in case we come under contact performing our mission.”
For pilots, the challenge lies in providing a stable platform for the gunner to load and fire from, explained Kershul.
Using a method of calling the target, side, azimuth and range, the pilots then give an accurate verbal map to the gunner, poised to defend. Given the command by the aircraft commander, the gunner will provide defensive fire.
“We need to have very standardized procedures, so the aircrew understands the rules of engagement and what the situation is,” said Kershul. “[The pilots decide] whether it would be appropriate to open fire or hold back.”
This form of low-altitude training simulates landing and lifting-off while suppressing an enemy attack, Kershul explained.
In a tactical situation, other joint coalition aircraft would typically escort an Osprey to provide additional defense, Kershul added.
“We came down to 50 [feet off the ground] and simulated coming into the zone and taking fire,” said Kershul. “There were multiple targets for the gunners.”
Old tanks, trucks, buildings and tires simulated a mock-town overtaken by the enemy, giving crew members practical targets at which to aim. The gunner fired approximately 1,200 .50-caliber live-rounds of ammunition during the training, Kershul added.
In addition to the tail-gunnery training, pilots took the Osprey through a variety of profiles and speeds.
“The MV-22B is unique in that we fly up high and fast like an airplane and land like a helicopter,” said Kershul. “The target solution for the gunners changes with different airspeeds and altitude. With increased airspeed and altitude, the ability to put [rounds] accurately where you want to put them becomes more difficult.”
Because of the challenges presented with increased altitude and airspeed, various scenarios were presented to the crew aboard the Osprey.
Completing tail-gunnery training prepares pilots and crews for even the most demanding situations.
Through intense training and implementation, Marines with VMM-165 have the ability to provide versatile support to troops on the ground through defensive airborne firepower.