Interesting F/A-18 and F-15C Air-to-Ground Combat Training at Townsend Range and the Coastal MOA

Savannah – Over the last few days, from both home and from the mobile station, I have had the chance to listen to some very interesting air-to-ground combat training from Townsend Range and the Coastal MOA between Savannah and Brunswick in coastal Georgia. F/A-18s based out of MCAS Beaufort along with F/A-18s from NASJRB Fort Worth, TX have been working with ground assets LIGHTNING AIR and JUSTICE. I’m not sure who LIGHTNING AIR is, but JUSTICE seems to be either a JTAC or TACP. That in itself isn’t unusual, but what makes this activity so interesting is that F-15Cs from the 125th FW at Jacksonville IAP have been participating as well. This is the first time that I’ve heard the 125th FW F-15s working with JTACs or TACPs or with a FAC-A as they did yesterday afternoon.

There has been morning, afternoon, and night activity at Townsend Range this week involving all of the units I mentioned above, but the common denominators have been COWBOY ## (F/A-18A+) flights VMFA-112 and LIGHTNING AIR/JUSTICE. HAWK 8# (F/A-18D) flights from VMFA(AW)-533 at Beaufort and FANG 0# and GATOR 0# (F-15C) from the 125th FW at Jacksonville have joined them on the morning and afternoon sorties while TBOLT 5# (F/A-18C) flights have joined them during the night sorties. There has also been tanker support from RANGER 41 and RANGER 45 (KC-130J, VMGR-234) during the afternoon and night sorties. VMFA-112 is working out of MCAS Beaufort and VMGR-234 has been working out of Savannah IAP.

So far, the aircraft have been checking in to Townsend Range and the Coastal MOA on 228.400, then switching to either 252.900 or 226.975 to work with LIGHTNING AIR and JUSTICE. Aerial Refueling with the KC-130Js has been on one of VMGR-234’s frequencies – 289.800, which has also been used for air-to-air traffic between the two VMGR-234 aircraft. The VMFA-112 F/A-18s have been using 250.300 for their air-to-air traffic, but I’m not sure if it’s one of their assigned frequencies or if they’re borrowing it from MAG-31 while they’re here (it is a MAG-31 frequency). Otherwise, usual Base/Ops/Air-to-Air frequencies have been in use:

251.400 – VMFA-251 Tac 1
310.200 – VMFA(AW)-533 Base
234.075 – VMFA(AW)-533 Tac 1
299.300 – VMFA(AW)-533 Tac 2
251.250 – 125th FW Ops
273.900 – 125th FW SOF
234.800 – 125th FW Aux 5
253.700 – 125th FW Aux 6

The most fascinating part of this activity has been the participation of the F-15Cs from Jacksonville. I’ve been listening to the unit since around 1998 and this is the first time I’ve heard them do air-to-ground training with a JTAC or TACP like they have with JUSTICE. Some of it has been direct with JUSTICE and at other times it’s been through HAWK 8# acting as a FAC-A. I haven’t heard them drop bombs or launch missiles or rockets, I’ve just heard them do strafe runs at targets, but they have been checking in with both LITENING or Sniper pods. It’s been fascinating to listen to the 125th FW do something that’s outside of their normal Air-to-Air combat training and I hope it’s something they’ll do more often; I’ll be listening out for it!

Sentry Savannah Photos; 1 February 2018

Savannah – After breakfast yesterday morning, I drove out to Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport to catch the Sentry Savannah aircraft recovering to Savannah from their morning sorties. When I first got to my spot (the old Applebee’s at SR 21/SR 307), the airport was using Runway 10, which meant that aircraft were taking off towards me and it wasn’t going to be a good spot to catch the fighters when they returned. I hung around a few minutes and caught the last departing fighters for the morning: VFA-143 F/A-18Es and 2nd FTS T-38s.

 

F/A-18E from VFA-143 climbing out of Savannah-Hilton Head IAP almost vertically, if you look closely you can see the afterburner trails

 

2nd FTS T-38 departing Savannah-Hilton Head Airport, this one stood out because they apparently replaced its left landing gear doors and haven’t gotten around to painting them to match the rest of the aircraft yet

 

F/A-18E from VFA-143 climbing out of Savannah-Hilton Head IAP vertically, if you look closely you can see the afterburner trails

 

After watching the last of the F/A-18Es and T-38s take off, I went around to the other side of the airport and found a good spot behind the Sam Sneads restaurant on Airport Rd. to watch the approach end of Runway 28. While I was there, a handful of T-38s and a flight of F/A-18Es returned; I didn’t get any good photos of the T-38s, but I did catch a good photo of one of the F/A-18Es.

 

F/A-18E, 168920, VFA-143 on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

After the F/A-18Es came in, the airport decided to switch runways to Runway 28, so it was back to my first spot. Once I was back at the old Applebee’s, 43rd FS F-22s, VFA-143 F/A-18Es, 2nd FTS T-38s, and 125th FW F-15s began to come back. It’s been awhile since I had the chance to watch any fighters, so it was fun to watch these come back and get some photos as they did. I had my Uniden BCD436HP scanning Savannah tower and the approach/departure frequencies so I could tell when each flight was coming and be ready.

 

F/A-18E, 168921, VFA-143 on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

43rd FS F-22A on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

43rd FS F-22A on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

Flight of 4 125th F-15Cs passing over Savannah-Hilton Head IAP before they broke formation for landing

 

F-22A, 01-4019, 43rd FS on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

F-22A, 01-4019, 43rd FS on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

F-15C, 86-0152, 125th FW on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

F-15C, 86-0152, 125th FW on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

F-15C, 86-0127, 125th FW on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

F-15C, 86-0143, on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

F-15C, 86-0177, 125th FW on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

T-38, 68-8139, 2nd FTS on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

 

Sentry Savannah Update; 2 February 2018

Savannah – After another day of monitoring the Sentry Savannah exercise and a ride out to the airport to watch the morning sorties recover, I have some updates on the frequencies and callsigns in use. 314.300 became an interesting frequency; on 31 January I thought the 159th FW F-15s were using it, but on 1 February, it was definitely being used by VFA-143 F/A-18Es. For now, I’m going to show it in use by both. Unfortunately, I’m not sure when I’ll have another opportunity to listen in so this may or may not be the last update on this Sentry Savannah. As always, if anyone has any additions or corrections, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

 

43rd FS F-22A on approach to Savannah-Hilton Head IAP

 

Frequencies
119.100/257.800 – Savannah IAP Tower
124.975/279.575 – Hunter AAF Tower
120.400/353.775 – Savannah Approach/Departure
125.300/371.875 – Savannah Approach/Departure
118.400/307.225 – Savannah Approach/Departure

269.550/124.700 – Jax Center Columbia Low
281.550 – Jax Center Georgetown High
282.200/124.675 – Jax Center Jekyll Low
282.300/135.975 – Jax Center Alma High
285.650/126.125 – Jax Center Statesboro High
363.200/132.925 – Jax Center Allendale/Savannah Low

120.950/284.500 – Sealord North Primary
133.950/267.500 – Sealord South Primary

288.400 – NORAD Discrete; Check-In
293.600 – NORAD Discrete; Blue Air
316.300 – NORAD Discrete; Red Air
265.400 – NORAD Discrete; Aerial Refueling
278.000 – Aerial Refueling

237.000 – ADC Ops; 43rd FS Ops
256.850 – 43rd FS Air-to-Air
288.900 – 43rd FS Air-to-Air
352.100 – 43rd FS Air-to-Air

290.000 – Old VMFA-251 Tac 1; 2nd FTS Ops
320.600 – 2nd FTS Air-to-Air

350.657 – North TACTS Range; VFA-143 Base
268.500 – VMFA-143 Tac
314.300 – VMFA-143 Tac
357.000 – VMFA-143 Tac

298.300 – 169th FW Ops
141.825 – 169th FW V14
140.125 – 169th FW V15

251.250 – 125th FW Ops
234.800 – 125th FW Aux 5
253.700 – 125th FW Aux 6

314.300 – 159th FW Air-to-Air

139.2125 ($293) – ADC; visiting unit aircraft maintenance/support
139.4125 ($293) – ADC; VFA-143 maintenance/support
141.6375 ($293) – ADC; 43rd FS maintenance/support
142.3625 ($293) – ADC; visiting unit aircraft maintenance/support

 

Callsigns
RAPTOR ## (F-22A, 43rd FS)
SAVAGE ## (F-22A, 43rd FS)
STINGER ## (F-22A, 43rd FS)

BEAGLE ## (T-38, 2nd FTS)
HOUND ## (T-38, 2nd FTS)

GRIFFIN ## (F/A-18E, VFA-143)
TAPROOM ## (F/A-18E, VFA-143)

MACE ## (F-16CM, 169th FW)

FANG ## (F-15C, 125th FW)
GATOR ## (F-15C, 125th FW)

JAZZ ## (F-15C, 159th FW)

DIXIE 10 (KC-135R, 63-8035, 117th ARW)
HUSKER 33 (KC-135R, 59-1495, 155th ARW)
SODA 55 (KC-135R, 59-1505, 134th ARW)

DOGHOUSE (325th FW Schoolhouse)
KREMLIN (Red Air GCA)
DRAGON (RTO)

The First Sentry Savannah Exercise of 2018 is Underway

Savannah – It’s late January/early February so that means it’s once again time for a Sentry Savannah exercise. For this iteration, there are fourteen F-22As from the 43rd FS at Tyndall AFB, ten T-38s from the 2nd FTS at Tyndall AFB, and seven F/A-18Es from VFA-143 at NAS Oceana. They all arrived at the Air Dominance Center at Savannah-Hilton Head IAP at the end of last week and over the weekend and the exercise began this Monday. For what it’s worth, these are the same players as the Sentry Savannah exercise that occurred in January/February 2017. As usual, the exercise centers around air-to-air combat activity in the special use areas off of the South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida coasts. The visiting units are being joined in the offshore airspace by local southeastern units: F-16CMs from the 169th FW at McEntire JNGB and F-15Cs from the 125th FW at Jacksonville IAP. Some F-15Cs from the 159th FW at JRB New Orleans have also been participating, but it sounded like they may have gone home this afternoon based on their routing after they left Savannah-Hilton Head IAP. Over the last few days, some of the 125th FW F-15s and the 159th FW F-15s were coming to Savannah between the morning and afternoon sorties then returning to Jacksonville IAP after the afternoon sorties. The morning sorties have been taking off around 0930 and the afternoon sorties around 1330. The fighter activity has been supported by two KC-135s from the 134th ARW from McGhee Tyson ANGB and the 155th ARW at Lincoln ANGB. This afternoon, a 117th ARW KC-135 from Birmingham ANGB also supported the fighters. Sentry Savannah usually lasts for a couple of weeks, so you’ll still be hearing them in the skies overhead for a while. If you’re interested in listening to them on the radio, you can if you have a scanner or other radio gear that will pick up the 225-400 MHz range in AM mode; here’s what to listen for:

 

Frequencies
119.100/257.800 – Savannah IAP Tower
120.400/353.775 – Savannah Approach/Departure
125.300/371.875 – Savannah Approach/Departure
118.400/307.225 – Savannah Approach/Departure

269.550/124.700 – Jax Center Columbia Low
281.550 – Jax Center Georgetown High
282.200/124.675 – Jax Center Jekyll Low
282.300/135.975 – Jax Center Alma High
285.650/126.125 – Jax Center Statesboro High
363.200/132.925 – Jax Center Allendale/Savannah Low

120.950/284.500 – Sealord North Primary
133.950/267.500 – Sealord South Primary

288.400 – NORAD Discrete; Check-In
293.600 – NORAD Discrete; Blue Air
316.300 – NORAD Discrete; Red Air
265.400 – NORAD Discrete; Aerial Refueling
278.000 – Aerial Refueling

237.000 – ADC Ops; 43rd FS Ops
256.850 – 43rd FS Air-to-Air
288.900 – 43rd FS Air-to-Air
352.100 – 43rd FS Air-to-Air

290.000 – Old VMFA-251 Tac 1; 2nd FTS Ops
320.600 – 2nd FTS Air-to-Air

350.657 – North TACTS Range; VFA-143 Base
268.500 – VMFA-143 Tac

298.300 – 169th FW Ops
141.825 – 169th FW V14
140.125 – 169th FW V15

251.250 – 125th FW Ops
234.800 – 125th FW Aux 5
253.700 – 125th FW Aux 6

314.300 – 159th FW Air-to-Air

 

Callsigns
RAPTOR ## (F-22A, 43rd FS)
SAVAGE ## (F-22A, 43rd FS)
STINGER ## (F-22A, 43rd FS)

BEAGLE ## (T-38, 2nd FTS)
HOUND ## (T-38, 2nd FTS)

GRIFFIN ## (F/A-18E, VFA-143)
TAPROOM ## (F/A-18E, VFA-143)

MACE ## (F-16CM, 169th FW)

FANG ## (F-15C, 125th FW)
GATOR ## (F-15C, 125th FW)

JAZZ ## (F-15C, 159th FW)

HUSKER 33 (KC-135R, 59-1495, 155th ARW)
SODA 55 (KC-135R, 59-1505, 134th ARW)

Marine Division Tactics Course at MCAS Beaufort

Savannah – It seems that MAG-31 at MCAS Beaufort is conducting a Marine Division Tactics Course (MDTC) for Group F/A-18 pilots in conjunction with MAWTS-1 and VMFT-401. A prerequisite for personnel attending the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course at MCAS Yuma, the MDTC provides training in aerial combat for both fighter pilots and intercept controllers. The training is conducted by instructors from MAWTS-1 (Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 and personnel and aircraft from VMFT-401. The giveaway is the set of callsigns used by the F/A-18 flights: KHAKI, LATCH, and SALEM; the only time that these seem to be used are during preparation for and during an MDTC. The F-5Ns from VMFT-401 use their usual callsign of SNIPER. Usually, there are multiple sorties per day with the KHAKIs, LATCHes, and SALEMs going up against the SNIPERs, but today I only heard one set of sorties in the morning (although some SNIPERs did go up against a flight VMFA-115 BLADEs later in the day). The MDTC usually lasts three weeks, with one week of classroom work and two weeks in the air. Based on what I’ve heard, I’m guessing last week was the classroom week and today began the two weeks of work in the air, but we’ll see. Here’s a callsign/frequency list to help out if you want to listen in:

KHAKI – F/A-18, MAG-31
LATCH – F/A-18, MAG-31
SALEM – F/A-18, MAG-31
SNIPER – F-5N, VMFT-401

313.800 – MAG-31 “KAISER Base” (usually VMFA-251 Base)
251.400 – MAG-31 Air-to-Air (probably new VMFA-251 Tac 1)
327.475 – MAG-31 Air-to-Air (usually VMFA-251 Tac 2)
376.425 – MAG-31 Air-to-Air (usually VMFA-251 Tac 3)
290.000 – MAG-31 Air-to-Air (old VMFA-251 Tac 1)

292.125 – Beaufort Approach/Departure
269.125 – Beaufort Approach/Departure

284.500 – SEALORD North Primary
349.800 – W-137 Discrete
376.900 – W-137 Discrete
318.600 – SEALORD Discrete

 

It’s also worth mentioning that VMFA-112 is also at MCAS Beaufort. In the past, they have also augmented VMFT-401 as Red Air during the more advanced air work during MDTCs. They were using VMFA-115 frequencies today and were doing air-to-ground work at Townsend Range, but as the MDTC goes on, I would expect to start hearing them work as Red Air with the SNIPERs.

283.400 – VMFA-115 Base
225.675 – VMFA-115 Tac 2
361.800 – Old VMFA-115 Base

 

In other MCAS Beaufort news, ATAC 22, either an ATAC Kfir or Hawker Hunter, arrived at MCAS Beaufort today so we could start hearing ATAC flights doing another round of operating as Red Air for the SWEDEs of  VMFAT-501 as they train new F-35B pilots.