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!

Exercise Palmetto Fire in Coastal Georgia

Savannah – Over the last couple of days, I’ve heard a good bit of activity from MCAS Beaufort jets operating over Fort Stewart. A little bit of listening and research indicates that it is an exercise named “Palmetto Fire” that began on 27 July and will last to 7 August. According to the DVIDS article below, it is a joint service exercise that “involves tactical reinforcements of aircraft for the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion and the 15th Air Support Operations Squadron.”  I was out of town and missed much of the activity, but over the last two days I’ve heard aircraft from VMFA(AW)-224 and VMFAT-501 from MCAS Beaufort, VFC-12 from NAS Oceana, and possibly HSM-48 from NS Mayport.

Frequencies

292.125 – Beaufort Approach/Departure

353.775 – Savannah Approach/Departure
371.875 – Savannah Approach/Departure

282.200 – Jacksonville ARTCC Jekyll Low
363.200 – Jacksonville ARTCC Allendale/Savannah Low

228.400 – Townsend Range/Coastal MOAs
127.350 – Marne Radio (Fort Stewart)
279.625 – Marne Radio (Fort Stewart)
271.100 – Fort Stewart Range
349.300 – Fort Stewart Range?

305.800 – VMFA(AW)-224 Base
250.300 – VMFA(AW)-224 Tac 1
258.900 – VMFA(AW)-224 Tac 2
299.275 – VMFAT-501 Base
315.300 – VMFAT-501 Tac 1
319.500 – VMFAT-501 Tac 2

303.000 – HSM-48?

Callsigns

BENGAL – F/A-18D, VMFA(AW)-224
SWEDE – F-35B, VMFAT-501
AMBUSH – F/A-18, VFC-12
VENOM – MH-60R?, HSM-48?
STINGRAY – JTAC


Palmetto Fire Brings the Heat

BEAUFORT, S.C. – Integrated training exercises pull pieces from all branches of the military to create a working force like no other. Exercise Palmetto Fire is a joint service exercise that was took place at the Townsend Bombing Range and Fort Stewart Army Base in Georgia, July 27 – Aug. 7.

“The exercise incorporates Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy aircraft,” said Capt. Brian Radler the Air Officer with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.

Palmetto Fire is an air-to-ground exercise that involves tactical reinforcements of aircraft for the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion and the 15th Air Support Operations Squadron.

“The exercise is hosted by [Marine Aircraft Group] 31 with the mission of training and upgrading the aircrew Marines of [Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadrons] 533 and 224 as forward air controllers,” said Capt. Jason Whitaker, the weapons systems training officer for VMFA-224. “The ground troops can utilize this exercise to learn and rehearse information back and forth amongst the pilots in the air.”

Units along the east coast will participate in the exercise, from Marine Corps Air Station New River, NC, down to Mayport Naval Station, Fla.

“We will utilize mortars, fixed wing aircraft, and rotary aircraft,” said Whitaker.

The forward air control will provide the ground troops a with better visual and extra support in the case of a real life situation. With the exercise taking place in close proximity to the Air Station, it is possible for the aircraft to carry ordnance from the Air Station to the bombing range.

“For the guys on the deck and the ones executing forward air control, they will go out on the battlefield and find targets that need to be prosecuted with indirect fire assets,” said Whitaker. “Then, either mortars, artillery or aviation ordnance will be used to destroy, suppress, or neutralize the targets on the field.”

It’s been eight years since MAG- 31 has executed a large-scale exercise utilizing live ordnance. Training with ordnance allows the Marines to familiarize themselves with the process and become more proficient in their military occupation specialty.

“We are loading inert ordnance on the jets, giving the ordnance Marines an opportunity to work with the simulated bombs,” said Whitaker. “We don’t often get the opportunity to work with or load ordnance, but it’s beneficial to both the ordnance Marines and the aircrew. It’s a great opportunity.”

All units played their role in the joint training exercise, and will be more prepared to execute successful future missions when the call is made.

Miscellaneous MilAir Notes

Recent monitoring and questions from other hobbyists have led to information I thought would be worth passing on. None of them are quite big enough to do a single post on them, so I’ve combined them into this update.

VMFAT-501

VMFAT-501, the F-35B training squadron at MCAS Beaufort is getting busier all the time. This week, it’s been particularly interesting to listen to them as they’ve done air combat maneuvering training off of the coast, close air support training at Townsend Range, and worked with F-16s from Shaw AFB in the Bulldog MOA. The increased activity has led to the discovery of these unit frequencies:

  • 299.275 – VMFAT-501 Base
  • 315.300 – VMFAT-501 Tac
  • 319.500 – VMFAT-501 Tac

So far, they’ve been using SWEDE 1#, 2#, and 3# callsigns in morning and afternoon sorties with an occasional nighttime sortie as well. I wasn’t in the area to hear it, but The Aviationist reports that VMFAT-501 has been doing aerial refueling operations and shares a YouTube B-roll video of them refueling with KC-130Js. (I would have loved to have heard this!)

224th MI Bn

I was asked the other day about 224th MI Bn RC-12s. Truth be told, I haven’t heard any RC-12s flying out of Hunter in months. The only 224th MI Bn activity I’ve heard are two MC-12Ws, which the units seems to be transitioning or seem to have transitioned to (Mode-S and tail numbers below):

  1. AE4C61 – MC-12W, 10-0739, B/224 MI Bn
  2. AE4C62 – MC-12W, 10-0742, B/224 MI Bn
SUNNY 22 (MC-12W, 10-0739) on final to Hunter AAF
SUNNY 22 (MC-12W, 10-0739) on final to Hunter AAF

Townsend Range (R-3007)/Coastal MOA

This week, I’ve been hearing aircraft from various bases and units working with a JTAC using the callsign AGRESSOR at Townsend Range and in addition to the normal Range/MOA frequencies, some aircraft have been pushed to 226.975 to work with the JTAC. I previously heard 226.975 used on a few occasions in 2007 and 2010, but not extensively. I’m not sure if this is a Range Control frequency or a MOA discrete, but it definitely seems to be worth programming in.

Large Force Exercise Over Coastal Georgia, Day 2

Savannah – The exercise being held over coastal Georgia, named Boar’s Nest based on ROCKET 11’s check in with SEALORD, continued for a second day on Wednesday. The day’s activity consisted of many of the same players as Tuesday’s activity with the addition of a B-1B and a P-8A replacing Tuesday’s P-3C. The offshore SUAs, Townsend Range/Coastal MOA, and Fort Stewart Ranges were used for air-to-air combat, air to surface activity against ground targets, and air-to-surface activity against maritime targets. WTOC News ran a story about the Hunter UAVs being used in the exercise on Wednesday night’s news.  Below is a cumulative list of callsigns and frequencies from the two days of activity:

Callsigns
VULTURE (E-8C, 116th ACW)
SCREWTOP (E-2C, VAW-123)
BOLT 23 (KC-135, 6th AMW)
BOLT 33 (KC-135, 6th AMW)
ROCKET 1# (F-15E, 336th FS)
SKEET 4# (F-15E, 336th FS)
BOAR 0# (A-10, 23rd FG)
DEATH 0# (A-10, 23rd FG)
RIPSAW 0# (A-10,23rd FG)
MACE 3# (F-16CM, 169th FW)
DEMON 7# (F-16CM, 169th FW)
TRIDENT 21 (P-3C, VP-26)
PELICAN 21 (P-8A, VP-45)
HAVOC 20 (B-52H, 2nd BW)
SKULL 25 (B-52H, 2nd BW)
SLAYER 01 (B-1B, 337th TES)
SHADY 305 (MQ-5, A/224 MI Bn)
SHADY 322 (RQ-5, A/224 MI Bn)
VENOM (JTAC, 165th ASOS)
OXBLOOD (JTAC)
ROSCOE (Exercise Ops)

Frequencies
284.500/129.950 – Sealord North Primary
311.500 – BRISTOL Discrete; Blue Air
320.500 – BRISTOL Discrete; Red Air
350.675 – North TACTS Range
355.325 – North TACTS Range

228.400 – Townsend Range Control/Coastal MOA
252.900 – Townsend Range Control/Coastal MOA

127.350/279.625/41.300 – Marne Radio
280.800 – Fort Stewart Range

276.075 – JSTARS Discrete
335.975 – JSTARS Discrete
376.125 – JSTARS Discrete
381.000 – JSTARS Discrete
303.100 – C2 Coord
314.400 – Aerial Refueling

298.300 – 169th FW Ops
141.825 – 169th FW V14
143.250 – 169th FW V16
300.525 – 336th FS a2a
300.725 – 336th FS a2a
300.925 – 336th FS a2a
301.525 – 336th FS a2a
143.150 – 23rd FG a2a
143.600 – 23rd FG a2a
236.725 – 23rd FG a2a

156.575 – Marine VHF Ch. 71

269.025/127.575 – Jax Center Waycross Low
269.550/124.700 – Jax Center Columbia Low
277.400/126.750 – Jax Center Brunswick 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
319.200/127.875 – Jax Center Aiken High
346.250/127.475 – Jax Center Green Cove High
351.700/124.075 – Jax Center Summerville High
363.200/132.925 – Jax Center Allendale/Savannah Low

Large Force Exercise over Coastal Georgia

Savannah – Yesterday afternoon, there was a Large Force Exercise in Coastal GA that involved JSTARS, an E-2, a KC-135, F-15Es, F-16s, A-10s, a B-52, a P-3, and an MQ-5.  The offshore SUAs, the Coastal MOAs, and the Fort Stewart MOAs were used for air-to-air combat activity, air-to-surface missions over land, and air-to-surface missions over water.

Callsigns
VULTURE – E-8C, 116th ACW
SCREWTOP – E-2C, VAW-123
BOLT 23 – KC-135, 6th AMW
ROCKET 1# – F-15E, 336th FS
SKEET 4# – F-15E, 336th FS
BOAR 0# – A-10, 23rd FG
MACE 3# – F-16CM, 169th FW
DEMON 7# – F-16CM, 169th FW
TRIDENT 21 – P-3C, VP-26
HAVOC 20 – B-52H, 2nd BW
SHADY 305 – MQ-5, A/224 MI Bn
VENOM – JTAC, 165th ASOS
ROSCOE – Exercise Ops

Frequencies
284.500/129.950     Sealord North Primary
311.500     BRISTOL Discrete; Blue Air
320.500     BRISTOL Discrete; Red Air
335.975     JSTARS Discrete; “Get Well” Freq
350.675     N. TACTS Range

228.400     Townsend Range Control/Coastal MOA
252.900     Townsend Range Control/Coastal MOA

127.350/279.625/41.300     Marne Radio
280.800     Fort Stewart Range

276.075     JSTARS Discrete
376.125     JSTARS Discrete
381.000     JSTARS Discrete
141.825     169 FW V14
143.250     169 FW V16
300.925     336th FS a2a
301.525     336th FS a2a

143.150     23rd FG a2a

303.100     C2 Coord

156.575     Marine VHF Ch. 71

269.025/127.575     Jax Center Waycross Low
277.400/126.750     Jax Center Brunswick 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
319.200/127.875     Jax Center Aiken High
363.200/132.925     Jax Center Allendale/Savannah Low