Japan / Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni / News Stories

Marines keep things rolling as Hornets arrive for exercise Southern Frontier

ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE TINDAL, Australia  — A few hours passed before the pilots of Marine All- Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 touched ground here in the rugged outback of Australia’s Northern Territory all the way from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.

Ordnance, aircraft technicians and logistical personnel, forward deployed the week prior, stood by to catch the jets and begin conducting procedures to quickly de-arm them.

VMFA(AW)-224 already knew the plan. Maintainers were briefed on all the procedures, personnel were kept informed of flight schedules, and cooperating units stood by to provide all the logistical support the pilots needed.

RAAF Base Tindal also provided VMFA(AW)-224 with logistical support for the landing, in addition to aircraft refuelling services, meals, working and living accommodations during the exercise.

The mission was to make the arrival of the VMFA(AW)-224 pilots go as smooth as possible with seamless integration into preparation for the next mission.

VMFA(AW)-224 pilots landed at RAAF Base Tindal, Australia for exercise Southern Frontier last week.

Southern Frontier is an annual, bilateral training exercise hosted by the RAAF to afford Marine Aircraft Group 12 Hornet squadrons the opportunity to focus on offensive air support.

“The flights went great,” said Capt. Jeffrey G. Dean, VMFA(AW)-224 pilot. “Everything went smoothly.”

Now that the birds have landed, pilots will have to rely on ground maintainers for the management and coordination of aircraft arrival, turnaround and launches.

“Flying definitely puts hours toward the life of the aircraft,” said Dean. “When we move the jets, we have to bring all of our maintenance support. No matter where we are, the jets still require periodic inspections and work.”

According to ordnance and aircraft technicians of VMFA(AW)-224, settling in and getting networks set up was tough, but the real work began when birds landed.

“Once the pilots get in, everyone goes to work,” said Cpl. James Sawyer, ordnance technician with VMFA(AW)-224.

Ordnance was the first section to see the birds and check for hot breaks.

When ordnance was done doing their checks, the other sections within VMFA(AW)-224 must do theirs to ensure the complete maintenance of the aircraft.

Fixed-wing aircraft safety equipment mechanics performed their inspections, which are vital to the safety and well-being of the pilot.

“Our job is to ensure the seat is in perfect condition,” said Lance Cpl. Danielle Kaitchuck, a VMFA(AW)-242 fixed-wing aircraft safety machanic. “We make sure there are no loose wires, foreign object debris, and make sure the SMDC lines aren’t burnt or broken. It has to allow the pilot to eject safely from the aircraft and survive.”

When it came time for the aircraft to launch again to conduct familiarization flights of the area, maintainers were called upon to perform safety inspections on the aircraft.

Over the next few days, personnel spent hours turning the jets around to comply with upcoming flight schedules and close-air support missions for exercise Southern Frontier.

VMFA(AW)-224 pilots spent a few days prior to the exercise gaining familiarization of Australia’s Northern Territory, including the Delamare Range Facility where the squadron will be conducting close-air support missions.

“A lot of electrical checks have to be conducted before pilots can drop bombs,” said Sawyer. “When we apply a specific type of bomb family to an aircraft, we have to do a check for that specific bomb family.”

“That involves doing checks every day,” he added.

There is much to look forward to the next few weeks as the Marines work with the Australians.

“I am definitely looking forward to making use of the airspace and ranges here,” said Dean. “The Northern Territory of Australia is pretty remote. There is a lot of open airspace to fly and train,” he added.

Southern Frontier is a chance for the two nations to exercise and enhance training relationships with all participating personnel.

Originally published: Marines.mil

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