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 Atlantic Spear

Savannah – Over the weekend, I heard that F-15s from the 104th Fighter Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard and the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard arrived had arrived at the Savannah Combat Readiness Training Center/Air Dominance Center. On Tuesday, when I came back to Savannah from Brunswick, I heard the F-15s working offshore with F-16s from the South Carolina ANG and F/A-18s from MCAS Beaufort. On Wednesday afternoon, I heard them involved in an even larger operation offshore with A-10s from Moody AFB, B-52s from Barksdale AFB, an E-8 JSTARS, F-15s from the Florida ANG, F-16s from the SC ANG, F-22s from Tyndall AFB, KC-135s from Grissom ARB, and a P-8A from Jacksonville. I started doing some web research and found out that there is an exercise based out of Savannah IAP this week called ATLANTIC SPEAR.

I won’t have the time to do a lot of listening for this exercise, but I did get a bit of listening on Tuesday and Wednesday and was able to get a frequency/callsign list started. Hopefully this can be a starting point for anyone else interested in listening in. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to be able to get out and get some aircraft photos for ATLANTIC SPEAR like I was for the SENTRY SAVANNAH exercises either.

Frequencies
257.800/119.100 – Tower
348.600/121.900 – Ground
353.775/120.400 – Approach/Departure
371.875/125.300 – Approach/Departure
307.225/118.400 – Approach/Departure
269.025/127.575 – Jax Center Waycross Low
269.550/124.700 – Jax Center Columbia Low
277.400/126.750 – Jax Center Brunswick Low
282.200/124.675 – Jax Center Jekyll Low
281.550 – Jax Center Georgetown High
285.650/126.125 – Jax Center Statesboro High
290.350/132.425 – Jax Center Hunter Ultra High
319.200/127.875 – Jax Center Aiken High
363.200/132.925 – Jax Center Allendale/Savannah Low
346.300/133.300 – Jax Center Moultrie Ultra High
120.950/284.500 – Sealord North Primary

237.000 – CRTC, “SPEAR Ops”
259.900 – 104th FW air-to-air
349.400 – 104th FW air-to-air
306.700 – 104th FW air-to-air
298.300 – 144th FW air-to-air
306.700 – 144th FW air-to-air

288.400 – NORAD Discrete
293.600 – NORAD Discrete
316.300 – NORAD Discrete
376.900 – W-137 Discrete
276.075 – JSTARS Discrete
228.400 – Townsend Range Control
274.400 – Aerial Refueling
278.000 – Exercise frequency
303.100 – Exercise frequency

143.150 – 23rd FG air-to-air
234.800 – 125th FW Aux 5
253.700 – 125th FW Aux 6
141.825 – 169th FW V14
289.275 – VMFA(AW)-533 Tac 1

Callsigns
KILLER 0# (F-15C, 104th FW)
LETHAL 0# (F-15C, 104th FW)
DOGS 0# (F-15C, 144th FW)
HYPER 0# (F-15C, 144th FW)
RAZOR 0# (F-15C, 144th FW)
SAVAGE 0# (F-15C, 144th FW?)
BENDER 0# (A-10, 23rd FG)
FANG 0# (F-15C, 125 FW)
MACE 3# (F-16CM, 169 FW)
DEMON 5# (F-16CM, 169th FW)
BONES 0# (F-22A, 95 FS)
DOOM 3# (B-52H, 2 BW)
VULTURE/PEACH 88 (E-8C, 02-9111, 128 ACCS)
TIGER 13 (P-8A, 168850, VP-8)
MASH 8# (KC-135, 434 ARW)

If anyone can add to the list above, please let me know and I’ll update the list while as long as the exercise continues. If it warrants afterwards, I’ll also post a wrap up.

VMFA(AW)-533 Deploys to the Western Pacific

Savannah – On Wednesday I caught F/A-18Ds from VMFA(AW)-533 departing MCAS Beaufort westbound with tanker support.  This afternoon, I came across a DVIDS story that confirmed that it was the squadron leaving on a Unit Deployment Program deployment to the Western Pacific.  They departed as FEUD 11-16 and FEUD 21-26 with tanker support for PETRO 61 and PETRO 71 respectively. The first cell, FEUD 1#, was using 352.900 for aerial refueling and the second cell, FEUD 2#, was using 396.200 for aerial refueling. For the mil-spotters, Bu Nos passed for FEUD 2# flight were 164967, 164656, 164872, 164711, 164723, and 164959. I never was able to identify which unit the tankers was from.  Here’s the DVIDS story announcing the deployment and giving a heads up on what the unit will be doing while deployed:

Hawks soar to Western Pacific

Story by Cpl. Brendan Roethe

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, also known as the Hawks, deployed to the Western Pacific though the Unit Deployment Program, Sept. 3.

The Hawks will be participating in Exercise Valiant Shield, which focuses on joint training among military forces and builds proficiency in sustaining the military’s ability to detect, locate, track and engage units in the air, at sea, and on land, according to the Congressional Research Service.

To prepare for the deployment, Marines worked countless hours throughout the day and night to ensure everything was ready before departing Fightertown.

“This will be my first deployment, but after a year of long work days and continuous training I am confident in my abilities and look forward to seeing what will be in store for not only myself but the squadron during the next six months,” said Lance Cpl. Eric Harte, an air frame mechanic for VMFA(AW)-533. “I’m excited to work with and become closer to the other Marines in my shop, and see more of what the Marine Corps has to offer.”

The UDP provides opportunities for Marines to train and partner with allies and other branches of service in the Pacific theater, and is a cost-effective way to expose U.S.-based Marine units to various training environments.

“Deployments such as this are great for Marines because they give them the expeditious mindset they will need when they are called to support combat operations in adverse environments,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Lopez, the ordnance officer of VMFA(AW)-533. “Operations here tend to be repetitive for many of the Marines. On this deployment they will be able to experience more and bring those experiences back to Beaufort, where they can apply them and make the squadron as a whole operate more efficiently.”

Holiday MilCom Activity

Location:  Savannah

In between doing household chores today, I turned on the radios to see what there would be to hear during this week between holidays.  I didn’t expect to hear much it has turned out to be a fairly active day, especially in the Warning areas off of the coast.  F-15s from the Florida ANG out of Jacksonville flew several sorties into the Warning Areas as did F/A-18s from VMFA-115 and VMFA(AW)-533 out of MCAS Beaufort.  VMFA(AW)-533 also flew several sorties to the Bulldog MOA in east central Georgia.  I also heard what sounded like a VMFA-312 maintenance check flight (the first time I’ve heard them since they returned from their deployment aboard the USS Truman).

Hawks Return From Japan

I have not heard the HAWKs return, but I look forward to hearing them back in the air and training in the Coastal Georgia area soon. They work Townsend Range frequently and that is something I should be able to hear pretty easily from Brunswick. – Mac

Story by Lance Cpl. Courtney White

After six months of deployment, approximately 190 Marines and two corpsman with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, also known as the Hawks, returned to the Air Station, Tuesday from Iwakuni, Japan.

The Hawks conducted a Western Pacific deployment to Iwakuni and provided 1st Marine Aircraft Wing with additional operational capability, including flight support and disaster relief.

“The Hawks provided 1st MAW with additional assets to conduct inter-service operation in order to exercise systems as well as provide valuable experience for all aircrew and maintainers,” explained Capt. Matt Humphries, a weapons systems officer with VMFA(AW) – 533.

The Hawks worked with numerous units from the Marine Corps, the Air Force, Japanese Air Self Defense Force and the Philippine Air Force.

During the deployment, the Hawks pilots were able to successfully train with various types of F/A-18 Hornets, train in Dissimilar Air Combat Training with Mitsubishi F-2’s and F-15 Eagle’s from the JASDF and provided real-time imagery and reconnaissance in support of humanitarian and disaster relief operations in the Philippines as a result of Super Typhoon Ketsana.

“We were able to send individual Marines to work with the Army and Air Force in South Korea and Japan as part of annual bi-lateral exercises,” Humphries said.

While the Marines were deployed, their spouses were able to participate in various activities such as movie night, bowling night and a yellow ribbon cruise to pass time with others who are experiencing the same thing, explained Jennifer Scherr, the VMFA(AW) – 533 family readiness officer.

“Although deployments can be demanding on families, the support of other spouses helps us know that we’re not going through this alone,” said Maura Quinn, spouse of a Fightertown Marine. “When you’re having a rough time during a deployment, it’s nice to know that others are going through the same thing and are there for you.”

Spouses will continue to have support for each other and gatherings during future deployments, according to Sherr.

“As a whole, the deployment was extremely successful, with all of the Marines gaining valuable experience in all aspects of aviation and maintenance,” Humphries said. “We hope to take all that we have learned and translate it into an even greater success in the United States.”

The Hawks will continue training for their upcoming deployment, scheduled for early 2011.