Axe Hearts Marines

312_photo7.jpgSo I'm a tacair junkie. Sue me. And of all the U.S. tactical air forces, the Marines' small force flying Boeing F/A-18 Hornets and Boeing AV-8B Harriers is my favoritest. These guys pull off minor miracles every day with ancient airplanes, a tiny budget and operational commitments (in Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan and aboard Navy aircraft carriers) that keep them very very busy.On top of this, the Marines must be ready for a wide range of contingencies, perhaps requiring forced entry against a conventional foe flying sophisticated fighters. To that end, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 "Checkerboards" based in Beaufort, South Carolina, is honing its dogfighting skills with live missile shoots, exercises against adversary fighters and by sending pilots to Topgun at Fallon, Nevada. I go into detail over at Military.com:

"Is there an air-to-air threat in Iraq? No. but if we start training just to fight right now, when that fight's over, something else pops up and we're unprepared," says Major Bruce "Flesh" Gordon, a 34-year-old Checkerboards pilot with more than 1,600 hours in the Hornet. He says the Marine Corps' small community of 14 Hornet squadrons -- each flying a dozen jets and half of which are based in Beaufort -- needs to be ready to deploy on 48 hours' notice to cover Marines storming some foreign shore to meet an unexpected threat."If a [Marine] commander wants to make a landing in, say, Bashir, Iran, he needs a secure beachhead. He won't have that if the Iranians are launching [Sukhoi Su-25] Frogfoot [attack planes] and [F-4] Phantom [fighters]," 34-year-old Captain Hank Thomas says by way of a hypothetical example.
Hopefully that example never becomes a reality. But if it does, the Marines will be ready.-- David Axe
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