KADENA AIR BASE, Japan — After completing the first week of approximately 45 hours of lectures and ground training June 4, Marine Aircraft Group 12, Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 were ready to take the Marine Division Tactics Course to the skies.
MAG-12 provided the command element and host for the course with support from Marine Aviation Weapons Squadron 1 instructors, who provided extensive lectures, ground communications and in-air training support.
MDTC is a graduate-level course designed to provide the requisite air-to-air training prior to attending the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course and employs similar tactics as the Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program.
The objective of MDTC is to provide F/A-18D 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.
“During the first week they spent in Iwakuni, Marines were doing full 10- to 12-hour days of academics followed by briefing labs,” said Maj. Kyle Shoop, MAWTS-1 MDTC instructor. “Now, we are down here into the flying operations doing warm-ups so they can go out and get current flying hours because it is part of the training rules they have to follow.”
VMFA(AW)-533 and VMFA-314 MDTC students flew sorties June 6 to ensure they were current and proficient in the air-to-air theatre.
“To make sure all students were current and up to date on their flight hours to go ahead with the dog-fighting portion of MDTC, they had to fly warm-ups,” said Capt. Daniel Flatley, MAG-12 MDTC action officer. “They have to practice their ability to maneuver and control the aircraft prior to the course.”
Maj. Anthony Baggs, MAG-12 safety and standardization officer, provided operational risk management support to ensure the safety of all participating elements.
Inclement weather conditions were a significant factor in recognizing potential operational risks prior to flight operations.
The rain and remnants of tropical typhoon conditions subsided in time for pilots to launch sorties.
“Being that it is summer time, a tropical environment and a raining season, we keep a real close eye on the weather,” said Baggs. “It can be a challenge during storm seasons and typhoon seasons.”
“For the students, it can be very stressful,” said Flatley. “The students are expected to perform at a high level and do very well, but at the same time, it is some of the best training you can get because the instructors are very good.”
Upon completion of the course, aviators will be able to go back and teach what they learned to other pilots in their squadron, said Flatley.
All students were required to review the USMC F/A-18 Tactical Standard Operating Procedure, TOPGUN and Air Force Tactics Techniques and Procedures 3-1 Volume 2 manuals prior to the flying portion of MDTC.
Conducting MDTC outside of the continental U.S. for the first time has brought about new challenges for Marines to overcome.
“Everything is a little bit different,” said Shoop. “People are not as familiar with the space. Some guys have deployed here, and some have not. Some stuff is all new, where as back in Miramar or Beaufort, it’s their home station.”
The success of the course is believed to open many doors for the F/A-18D Hornet and aviation community including the ability to conduct MDTC in forward deployed environments.