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!

Weekend Radio – 20/21 August 2016

Savannah – I haven’t had the opportunity to play radio recently, but this weekend I had a lot of fun receiving and transmitting. On the scanning side, it was a fairly active MilAir weekend and on the amateur radio side of things, it was International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend (ILLW) so the airwaves were a target rich environment on my weekend off.

The North American QSO Party took place on Saturday so I delayed my amateur radio activity to Sunday. For one thing I’m not really interested in contesting, but the main reason was that I wanted to hunt lighthouses during ILLW and I figured that the QSO Party would make it difficult to find and work them with the mobile station. The decision to wait turned out to be a good one. While it isn’t unusual for a few fighters from MCAS Beaufort to work out of Savannah on the weekends, this weekend saw 8 at Savannah IAP flying sorties offshore. Four also worked out of Charleston, SC flying sorties into the area offshore of Savannah. TBOLT 51-54 (F/A-18C, VMFA-251) and BENGAL 41-44 (F/A-18D, VMFA-224) flew out of Savannah against SNIPER 11-14 (F-5, VMFT-401) flying out of Charleston in various combinations. At times, there were 8-12 fighters in W-137 on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon! In addition to the F/A-18s, a gaggle of T-6As from the 14th FW were at Savannah IAP as MAFIA ## and VALOR ##.

The G5RV for the home amateur radio station came out of its tree during a recent thunderstorm, so even at home in Savannah, I’m now limited to the mobile station for HF, so late on Sunday morning I fired up the mobile station and went hunting for lighthouses as a “stationary mobile.” Like the Museum Ship weekend, the ILLW is a great way to blend my interests in radio and history. Before it got hot and humid (and I decided to retreat to the air conditioning indoors), I came across four lighthouses around the Great Lakes and New England on 20 Meters and worked a non-lighthouse station, TI2CC in Costa Rica on 17 Meters.

  1. W9CQO – Kevich Light (US 0193) in Grafton, WI, activated by the Ozaukee Radio Club, Op: Tom
  2. W1PBR – Pemaquid Point Light (US 0124) in Bristol, ME, activated by the Pen Bay Amateur Radio Club
  3. KC8VC – Peninsula Point Light (US 0209) in Bay de Noc, MI, activated by the Mich-A-Con Amateur Radio Club, Op: Skip
  4. WN8HCV – Pointe Aux Barques Light, USA 0105) in Port Hope, MI, activated by the Robinson Township Contest Club, Op: Greg

By the way, in another mix of radio and history, Bill, K4WP will be operating from Fort Pulaski near Savannah on Thursday, 25 August as part of National Parks on the Air for the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. 25 August is the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service, so there should be a lot of NPOTA activity. I won’t be in town to take part in the activation at Fort Pulaski, but I will be getting on the air from the mobile down in Brunswick hunting for some NPOTA stations. If you’re in or near Savannah on Thursday, do try to stop by Fort Pulaski if you can, it will be a big day with free admission and many activities, demonstrations, and programs.

VMFA-251 Thunderbolts Return to MCAS Beaufort

This morning, VMFA-251 began returning from their deployment aboard the USS Enterprise, CVN-65 with CVW-1TBOLT 01-08 flight arrived at MCAS Beaufort using Tac 1, 290.000 and passing arrival info to their Base on 313.800.  The Navy News article below gives more info on the return of the USS Enterprise and her Carrier Air Wing including VMFA-251.

Enterprise Carrier Strike Group Returning from Middle East

From Commander, U.S. Second Fleet Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) — More than 4,400 Sailors and officers aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) are scheduled to return to Norfolk July 15 after a six-month deployment supporting operations in the Mediterranean and the Arabian Sea.

Enterprise, along with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), and the guided-missile destroyers USS Barry (DDG 52) and USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) are scheduled to return to Naval Station Norfolk. USS Mason (DDG 87) is also a member of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and is scheduled to return to Norfolk later this month.

The carrier, commanded by Capt. Dee L. Mewbourne, traveled nearly 60,000 miles after leaving Norfolk Jan. 13 to support theater security cooperation and maritime security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.

Enterprise CSG is made up of Commander, CSG-12, Enterprise, CVW-1, DESRON 2, Leyte Gulf, Barry, Bulkeley, and Mason. The squadrons of CVW-1 embarked aboard Enterprise are the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11 “Red Rippers,” VFA-136 “Knighthawks,” VFA-211 “Fighting Checkmates,” Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 251 “Thunderbolts,” Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 “Screwtops,” Carrier Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 137 “Rooks,” Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 “Rawhides,” and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 11 “Dragonslayers.”

VMFA(AW)-224 F/A-18D Crashes Offshore of SC

http://www2.wsav.com/sav/news/local/article/south_carolina_marines_recovering_after_fighter_jet_crash/105146/

I caught the tail end of the SAR after eating dinner and before going to Church this evening. At the time I wasn’t sure if it was a fighter, but I knew that it was not a drill. 282.800, SAR Common was being used and 413.000, CG 410 was being used. There were also related comms on 313.800, VMFA-251 Base and 156.800, Marine VHF Ch. 16. F/A-18Cs from VMFA-251 and Coast Guard 6542 were working the SAR; as I walked in the room, the TBOLTs from VMFA-251 and 6542 were en route to MCAS Beaufort and Sector Charleston was broadcasting on Ch. 16 that two persons had been recovered.

Mac McCormick III, KF4LMT