report by: Sebastien Mousty
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), an air combat adversary squadron of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing of the Marine Corps Reserve. 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. Through an agreement between the Marine Corps and Yuma County, MCAS provides all air traffic control, crash crew services, security, and maintains the runways and taxiways for both MCAS and Yuma International Airport.
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. Each year, the air station hosts numerous units and aircraft from U.S. and NATO forces. This relatively isolated air station has access to an exceptional variety of airspace and ranges. Sorties from Yuma can easily reach the Twentynine Palms complex (approximately 100 air miles), and in fact must circumnavigate another USMC Complex, the Chocolate Mountain/El Centro area, en route. MCAS Yuma has recently been designated the scheduling agency for Restricted Area R-2301W in southern Arizona.
During the 1960s, 70s, and early 1980s, MCAS Yuma was home to VMFAT-101, the Marine Corps’ Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) for the F-4 Phantom II, training U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, and NATO/Allied flight crews and maintenance personnel in the F-4B, F-4J, F-4N, and F-4S. Following the transfer of VMFAT-101 to MCAS El Toro, California in the 1980s, MCAS Yuma became the principal Fleet Marine Force Pacific operating base for the AV-8B Harrier II, under the cognizance of Marine Aircraft Group 13 (MAG-13). Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) is a major aviation command at MCAS Yuma, conducting training for all Marine Corps tactical aviation units, most notably the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course. Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401) is a Marine Air Reserve squadron also based at MCAS Yuma, containing both active duty and Selected Marine Corps Reservists, providing aerial adversary/aggressor services and dissimilar air combat training (DACT) for all U.S. military services, and selected NATO, Allied, and Coalition partners.
Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1) is a United States Marine Corps operational test squadron consisting of multiple aircraft types. The squadron is based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. VMX-22 stood up in August 2003 and was redesignated VMX-1 in May 2016. VMX-1 conducts operational test under the authority of the Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COMOPTEVFOR) and the Director, Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity (MCOTEA) depending on the program under test. VMX-1 is an independent test organization which conducts operational testing under the authority of COMOPTEVFOR. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 (VMFA-122) is a United States Marine Corps fighter attack squadron flying the F-35B Lightning II. VMA-211 flew its final AV-8B Harrier flight on 6 May 2016, and the first F-35B was delivered on 9 May 2016. On 30 June 2016, VMA-211 was officially re-designated as VMFA-211.
Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401) is a United States Marine Corps Reserve fighter squadron flying the F-5N Tiger II. Known as the “Snipers”, the squadron is the only adversary squadron in the Marine Corps, also is the first and only reserve squadron in the Marine Corps tasked to act as the opposing force in simulated air combat. They are based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and fall under the command of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing and Marine Aircraft Group 41. VMFT-401 is a non-deployable unit. Provide instruction to active and reserve Fleet Marine Forces and Fleet squadrons through dissimilar air combat training (DACT). The majority of VMFT-401’s annual workload is their work-up and participation in the semiannual Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course conducted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron.
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