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    MAG-13 Conducts Massive Large Force Exercise



    Story by 1st Lt. Zachary Bodner 

    3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

    Across the skies of Arizona and off the coast of Southern California, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) conducted a large force exercise on March 4, 2021. The exercise tested MAG-13’s ability to effectively find and destroy enemy surface to air threats to enable follow-on amphibious landings, defend naval assets against a peer threat, and refuel and rearm their aircraft at expeditionary airfields.

    “The exercise demonstrated the strategic mobility that the Short-Take off Vertical Landing (STOVL) F-35 “B” variant provides to Combatant Commander’s,” said Lt. Col. Luke "Espo" Esposito, MAG-13 operations officer. “That capability provides more flexible and adaptable 5th generation combat power in austere environments that exist around the globe.”

    In planning guidance released to the fleet, the Commandant of the Marine Corps highlighted that we are naval expeditionary force capable of deterring malign behavior and, when necessary, fighting inside our adversary’s sensors and weapons engagement zone to facilitate sea denial in support of fleet operations and joint force horizontal escalation. The full-day evolution underscored 3rd MAW’s continued effort to train against peer threats and to shift away from static, built up airfields towards expeditionary advanced basing operations (EABO). MAG-13’s SVOTL capabilities make them uniquely qualified to support distributed maritime operations.

    The exercise carefully combined capabilities from F-35B Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II’s from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, VMFA-211, AV-8B Harriers from Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 214, introductory MQ-9 training from Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 1, and expeditionary support from Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 371. Also participating in the exercise were F-35Bs and Cs from Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1 and the Navy Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX-9), F-5N Tiger IIs from Marine Fighter Training Squadron (VMFT) 401, and F-22 Raptors from US Air Force 90th Fighter Squadron. Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 352 and contracted tanker has provided aerial refueling to extend the jet’s reach.

    EABO is a Navy-Marine Corps concept approved by the Chief of Naval Operations and Commandant of the Marine Corps in mid-March 2019. The EABO concept calls for employing mobile, low signature, operationally relevant, and relatively easy to maintain and sustain expeditionary forces from a series of austere, temporary locations ashore or inshore within a contested or potentially contested maritime area in order to conduct sea denial or support sea control.

    When asked how MAG-13 Marines and machines can support the EABO concept, Esposito responded “If airfields have been degraded by enemy long-range fires, and carriers cannot venture into certain enemy weapon engagement zones, the STOVL characteristics of the F-35B allow for it to recover to and launch from surfaces that conventional fighters would not have access to. This includes bombed out runways, roads, or other paved areas like parking lots. The ability of this asset to get into and out of FARPs that are rapidly stood up, executed, and then disassembled again, will be vital to combat power projection in possible future conflicts in the region.”

    The unique STOVL capabilities of MAG-13’s F-35Bs allowed them to utilize Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s auxiliary airfield to simulate FARP operations. Additionally, they co-located a Combat Operations Center (COC) to manage the fight and provide command and control.
    While operating a FARP is already complex, MAG-13 challenged their Marines by building a scenario that required setting their aircraft on a five minute alert launch status. When intelligence estimates injected into the scenario indicated enemy aircraft man-up and launch preparations, the aircraft were then sequenced into the fight to ensure that the defense of friendly assets was accomplished. By inviting F-22 Raptors from a visiting USAF squadron and utilizing other 5th generation aircraft as enemy forces, they were able to increase the complexity of the mission and train to a peer-level threat.

    3rd MAW continues to "Fix, Fly, and Fight" as the Marine Corps' largest aircraft wing and remains combat-ready, deployable on short notice, and lethal when called into action.



    Date Taken: 04.07.2021
    Date Posted: 04.08.2021 11:11
    Story ID: 393327
    Location: MCAS YUMA, AZ, US

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