News: Marine Division Tactics Course paves sky-road for aviation future
Story by Lance Cpl. Jennifer Pirante
IWAKUNI, Japan - Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadrons 242, 533 and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 aviators wrapped up the first week of the Marine Division Tactics Course here today.
The initial week-long period of instruction, supported by Marine Aircraft Group 12, was delivered by Marine Aviation Weapons Tactics Squadron One instructors to a small group of qualifying F/A-18 Hornet pilots and ground support controllers slated to complete the four-week course and graduate June 28.
The objective of MDTC is to provide F/A-18 Hornet aircrew and Marine Air Intercept Controllers with ground and airborne instruction in the doctrine, tactics and weapons considerations for the successful employment of Marine fighter attack aircraft in a complex air-to-air environment.
The course is designed to provide the requisite air-to-air training prior to attending the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course.
“MDTC is what we call a graduate level air-to-air exercise of great pilots,” said Capt. Daniel Flatley, MAG-12 MDTC action officer. “It’s kind of in the same vein as TOPGUN, the Navy fighter weapons school. This is the Marine version of that course.”
MDTC also prepares prospective weapons and tactics instructors to implement a comprehensive air-to-air training program in their squadrons to carry on the knowledge they gain from the experience.
“We’re training pilots and air intercept controllers to be better instructors themselves,” said Col. Christopher Mahoney, MAG-12 commanding officer. “We’re training them to be standardization officers and to keep the standard across the fleet.”
The first week of academic instruction was conducted here where pilots participated in the practical application of weapons systems, missiles, radar, surveillance and detailed capabilities of F/A-18 Hornet jets as well as simulated opposing aircraft.
F/A-18 Hornets, F-15 Eagles, F-22 Raptors and contracted adversaries are slated to fly against qualifying pilots in simulated air-to-air training events.
Students were encouraged to keep a few primary questions in mind about their squadron’s own capabilities and the capabilities of those they may fly against.
“What do we have? How should we employ it? What do they have? How do we think they are going to employ it? Those answers will shape how we think about moving down the road as far as tactical aviation,” said Mahoney. “Scenarios progressively get more complex and the integration with the air intercept controllers becomes more important as the course proceeds.”
The next three weeks are slated to consist of employed air-to-air combat training where pilots will fly at least two sorties per day and put what they have learned to the test.
“Students will focus on one versus one dog fighting and work their way up to section employment, which is two aircraft,” said Flatley. “Pilots then work their way up to division employment, which is four aircraft versus a number of aggressors.”
The next three weeks of instruction are laid out week by week as a series of training scenarios for pilots to engage in.
“The scenarios can include fighting our way into enemy territory, dropping bombs on a target and fighting our way out to protect an asset such as a ship or piece of land,” said Capt. Kyle D. Haire, VMFA(AW)-533 pilot training officer.
MDTC is the first course of its kind to be conducted in the Pacific region of Japan.
“The last time MDTC was conducted was around this time last year, and it was conducted in Miramar, Calif. This is the first time it has ever been conducted outside of the continental U.S.,” said Flatley.
MDTC complements the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor course and leads into an absolute training requirement with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. This will potentially conjoin the F/A-18 and F-35 platforms in training.
“The pilots have been looking forward to this training for the last few weeks,” said Haire. “I think they’re all ready to get the workup over and start flying. After the first week of classes, they will fly at least two sorties per day,” he said.
Marines are slated to gear up to carry out the flying portion and the rest of the approximately 23 training days at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Monday.