report by: Danny Bonny
MCAS Yuma is the busiest air station in the Marine Corps and the third busiest in the Naval service. Its primary mission is to support aerial weapons training for the Atlantic and Pacific Fleet Marine Forces and Navy, and to serve as a base of operations for Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1 and 3rd MAW units, including Marine Aircraft Group Thirteen (MAG-13). 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. In addition, operating as a shared-use airfield with Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma is the Yuma International Airport (YUM), a commercial service airport.
MCAS Yuma is home to two AV-8B Harrier squadrons ; one F-35B squadron and the Marine’s only, adversary F-5N squadron VMFAT-401 ‘Snipers’. MCAS Yuma also hosts the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1). In very basic terms, the task of MAWTS-1 is to standardize and provide training for the operation of all the Corp’s aviation assets. Held twice yearly, the air station hosts numerous units and aircraft from both U.S. Military aviation assets and NATO forces.
In October 2016, MCAS Yuma again hosted the Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course. Some military experts have compared this school for Marines as the equivalent of the U.S. Air Forces Weapons School, or the U.S. Navy’s Top Gun School. It is however, the only training of its kind providing pilots, weapon system operators, ground combat and combat support service personnel a world-class opportunity to advance their battlefield knowledge and expertise. Held twice every year, the Course and Exercise brings both officers and enlisted personnel from across the Air Wing component of the Marine Corps and trains them together with the various weapon systems & missions. With the result that after the two months of schooling, these now qualified instructors can return to their assigned units and further the knowledge recently gained among their other Marines.
The course comprises part classroom instruction combined with a rigorous flight curriculum. It is intended to build communication between the air crews, ground crews and the troops on the ground with the goal of working in the future together smoothly and efficiently. During the training, students are taught a variety of weapon sysytems and how they are used, the tactics involved and how best to utilize them. This, together with operating amongst other Marine aviation units as well as command and control systems. Missions are held either at the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range in Arizona, or in the Chocolate Mountains of the California’s Colorado desert. Occasionally urban combat missions can take place in the built up areas of El Centro and/or Brawley, California, with the final mission of the urban phase taking place in the town of Yuma.
During the latest WTI course, with the exception of MCAS Yuma squadrons aircraft from the following units were recorded in attendance: EA-6B of VMAQ-2 from MCAS Cherry Point, NC; F/A-18’s of VMFA-312 , VMFAT-101 and VMFA(AW)-225 from MCAS Miramar, CA; KC-130J’s of VMGR-234 from JRB Fort Worth, TX plus UH-1Y of HMLA-269 and 469 from MCAS New River, NC. Globalairpower would like to thank the author for this report.