ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE TINDAL, Australia — Marines of 5th Air Naval GunFire Liaison Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, and 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Division conducted joint operations to provide Marine All- Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 with joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) ground support during exercise Southern Frontier at the Delamere Air Weapons Range in Australia Sept. 13 and 14.
Southern Frontier is an annual, bi-lateral training exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force to allow VMFA(AW)-224 the opportunity to focus on offensive air support training in order to improve squadron readiness and build relations with allied forces.
For the duration of the exercise, 5th ANGLICO and 3rd Recon Marines held the responsibility to gain and maintain control of two main elements: the VMFA(AW)-224 pilots who provided close-air support from above and the infantry Marines who provided fire from the ground.
“Our training mainly consisted of calling for fire,” said Cpl. Jonathan Jones, field radio operator with 3rd Recon. “We also train with the mortars and bring the birds in. Radio operators have full control of the birds when we work with them.”
VMFA(AW)-224 Hornets and infantry mortarmen took turns coordinating fire with 81mm practice mortars with JTAC.
From approximately 400 meters away, JTAC Marines observed the landing of the mortars and their accuracy.
“We watched and saw where rounds made impact so that we could make adjustments if we needed to,” said Jones. “Then we call in the coordinates.”
According to Capt. Brad Leeman, F/A-18 Hornet pilot with VMFA(AW)-224, it takes a lot of coordination with ground support units to ensure all units get the proper training they need to complete the mission.
“We need those integration elements,” said Leeman. “The more players, the more we can integrate.”
JTAC Marines also trained to maintain communications with the infantry unit and birds in the air to keep the safety of all personnel sustained.
“Pilots and ground forces bring us into this type of training to provide surveillance,” said Jones. “We told air elements that we have guns flying so they would not fly into the area or interfere.”
The training ultimately became a collaboration of control.
“The goal on Monday was to maintain control for the pilots,” said Leeman. “Once we completed our mission, we passed on control to (JTAC) so they can control the aircraft as well.”
Marines with VMFA(AW)-224 and supporting squadrons were provided with the quality venue of the Delamere Air Weapons Range, south of Katherine, to develop multilateral interoperability and coalition procedures in air power missions.
“It is not very often we get to do this type of training,” said Leeman. “The range is a large size and allows for high explosives, which is hard to find in the Pacific region.”
According to Jones, both units find the outback to be beneficial to all units conducting operations here in Australia’s wide-open Northern Territory.
“We can really only do this type of training in Australia,” said Jones. “Out here, they have a lot of open space to fire ordnance.”
According to Leeman, the last week of exercise helped to improve squadron readiness as the mission stated.
“The exercise went pretty well from air perspective,” said Leeman. “We had a lot of good training out here.”
After three solid weeks of coordination with participating allies and partners, VMFA(AW)-224 knows what to do if the time comes.
Originally published: Marines.mil