The U.S. Marine Corps train for a war in the Pacific: F/A-18 Hornets make first ever "coral" arrestment on a tiny island of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Tinian, is one of the three principal islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, in the Pacific Ocean. It is located about 5 miles (8 km) to the southwest of its sister island, Saipan, and has a land area of 39 sq.mi. (101.01 km²).

On May, 23, four F/A-18D Hornets from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, Marine Aircraft Group 12, landed on the island of Tinian’s West Field during Exercise Geiger Fury 2012: they were the first jets to have ever landed on the tiny island using an M-31 arresting gear set-up assembled for operations on coral terrain.

A kind of arrestment that was never done before but could be useful to turn an abandoned WWII airfield on an atoll into a full operationational forward operating base capable to launch jet sorties: disperse the Marines combat planes across the Pacific and make them available to perform close air support could be important in case of local war in the region.

Obviously, there will not be short take off and landing ops in the future, when the service will replace its Hornets with the STOVL F-35Bs.

Noteworthy Tinian island played a role during WWII: it was from the local North Field that B-29 Superfortress bombers from the 509th Composite Group carrying the atomic bombs Little Boy and Fat Man were launched against Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The training activity gave the opportunity to establish the effectiveness of the coral set up of the arresting gear: the F-18s took three arrestments each on the improvised expeditionary airfield in less than one hour and 15 minutes.

The following interesting pictures, show the first “corral arrested landings” ever.

Image credit: Marine Corps Activity – Guam

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About David Cenciotti 3730 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.