report by: Thierry Letellier
On Saturday March 9, the flying display of the Twilight Show included the USAF A-10 Demo Team, a Marine F-35B from the VMFA-122, the Tora Tora Tora Commemorative Air Force, the Yellow Thunder Airshow T-6’s. The airshow started early in the morning with consequent program. The flying display included a VMA-214 AV-8B Harrier II, a VMX-1 MV-22B Osprey, the P-51D & A-10 Thunderbolt II Heritage Flight, the MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) Demo by AV-8, AH-1, CH-53, F-35, MV-22 and UH-1, three F-5N aircraft belonging to the VMFT-401 Aggressor Squadron.
Marine Corps Air Station Yuma or MCAS Yuma is a United States Marine Corps air station which is the home to multiple squadrons of AV-8B Harrier IIs and F-35B Lightning IIs of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1), Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1) and Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401). MCAS Yuma is the busiest air station in the Marine Corps and the third busiest in the Naval service. MCAS is the only joint-use air station in the Marine Corps. One of the Marine Corps’ premier aviation training bases, with access to 2.8 million acres of bombing and aviation training ranges, and superb flying weather, MCAS Yuma supports 80 percent of the Corps’ air-to-ground aviation training.
The first military aircraft demonstration of the day was the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II. Powered by a single 23,500lbst Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine with four variable nozzles, the Harrier was and still is one of the most valuable assets of the Marine Corps’ inventory. The Marines’ inventory counts 34 AV-8B Harrier II Night Attack versions and 74 AV-8B Harrier II+ with its Raytheon APG-65 multi-mode radar and 16 TAV-8B trainers. 110 aircraft are operated by 5 squadrons with 16 AV-8B each, one fleet.
The A-10 Demo Team utilizes two A-10Cs (the second is being used as a backup) of the 355th Wing based at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. The demonstration profile included combat manoeuvres of constant changes in airspeed, altitude, heading, and bank angle, along with many pyrotechnics to simulate the use of its weapons. The A-10 Thunderbolt II was the first U.S. Air Force aircraft specifically designed for close air support of ground forces. During this simulated MAGTF mission, two ground vehicles were receiving heavy fire from the enemy and requested assistance from the air. One AV-8B and one F-35B were present in the area and provided assistance with raids against the enemy’s forces. Later on, one CH-53D Sea Stallion, escorted by one UH-1Y and one AH-1Z, brought in some Marine Raiders, who provided cover while the aircraft continued to strike from the skies above.
Then it was the time for the other STOVL aircraft of the Marines; the new F-35B Lightning II, operated by the VMFA-122 “Flying Leathernecks” Squadron. The F-35B version is the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the aircraft. Similar in size to the A variant, the F-35B sacrifices about a third of the aircraft’s fuel capacity to accommodate the vertical lift propulsion system. The Marine Corps plans to procure 353 F-35B and 67 F-35C models to replace current inventories of both the F/A-18 Hornet (A, C and D-models) and the AV-8B Harrier II.
My only regret about Yuma Airshow 2019 will remain to not have been able to make a static tour inside the base; due to a lack of time, generated by a car accident on Interstate-8 when inbound the Show.