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!

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.