Tag Archives: U.S. Marine Corps

Marine Attack Squadron loses eight Harrier jets in worst U.S. air loss in one day since the Vietnam War

On Friday Sept. 14, at around 10.15 p.m. local time, a force of Taliban gunmen attacked Camp Bastion, in Helmand Province, the main strategic base in southwestern Afghanistan.

About 15 insurgents (19 according to some reports), wearing U.S. Army uniforms, organized into three teams, breached the perimeter fence and launched an assault on the airfield, that includes the U.S. Camp Leatherneck and the UK’s Camp Bastion, where British royal Prince Harry, an AH-64 Apache pilot (initially believed to be the main target of the attack) is stationed.

The attackers fired machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and possibly mortars against aircraft parked next to the airport’s runway. Two U.S. Marines were killed in the subsequent fighting whereas eight of 10 AV-8B+ Harrier jets of the Yuma-based Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 211 were destroyed (6) or heavily damaged (2): the worst U.S. air loss in one day since the Vietnam War.

The VMA-211 “Avengers” is part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing headquartered in San Diego at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. It deployed to Afghanistan in April and relocated from Kandahar Airfield to Camp Bastion on Jul. 1.

According to Wikipedia, the VMA-211 last suffered this level of losses on Dec. 8, 1941.

Considered that the U.S. Marine Corps are believed to be equipped with slightly more than 120 AV-8B+, the attack on Camp Bastion has wiped out 1/15th of the entire U.S. Jump Jet fleet and a large slice of the Yuma-based squadron. A serious problem for the USMC, that was compelled to buy second hand RAF Harrier GR9s to keep the AV-8B+ in service beyond 2030, when it will be replaced by the F-35B.

Furthermore, the VMA-211 was the only Marine Harrier unit in Afghanistan: until the destroyed airframes will be replaced (most probably, by another Squadron), the coalition ground forces can’t count on the CAS (Close Air Support) provided by the Harrier.

Tom Meyer has contributed to this post.

Image credit: U.S. Marine Corps

Video: KC-130 tactical refueler escorts four MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor planes from Afghanistan to USS Iwo Jima

The following video shows a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J belonging to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 escorting four MV-22 Ospreys belonging with the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 from Helmand province, Afghanistan, to the USS Iwo Jima in the Arabian Sea.

The footage shows the four MV-22s flying in a loose echelon formation: formation flying, in airplane mode, requires the aircraft to maintain a minimum cockpit-to-cockpit separation of 250 ft along the bearing line. With less than 50 ft step up/down, pilots should avoid lead aircrafts’ 5-7 O’clock to prevent wake interaction, a serious flight safety issue that can result in an uncontrollable roll and consequent crash.

Dealing with the KC-130J, it is a tactical asset with the unique capability to be able to refuel either combat planes, helicopters (HAAR – Helicopter Air-to-Air Refueling) and tilt-rotor aircraft.

Unlike strategic tankers, that can accompany and refuel trailing planes on long-range ferry flights, the Hercules is suited for round-trip AAR missions within 1,000 miles from the departure airport. At that distance the KC-130J can dispense over 45,000 lbs of fuel to its receivers.

It is also capable of doing it at night, being certified for NVG (Night Vision Goggles) operations.

This U.S. package (including a B-52 and few tactical planes) is worth a small European air force

The following picture, released on Sept. 5, 2012 was taken on Aug. 14, 2007, at the end of exercise Valiant Shield 2007. It shows a B-52 leading a formation of four F-18E/F Super Hornet, four F-18C Legacy Hornet, four F-15s and four F-16s, a package made of combat planes belonging to the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.

Those 17 aircraft (and the weapons they are able to carry) represent a small force capable to perform a wide variety of missions against the most modern enemy air defenses: although it may be a bit far-fetched, I’m quite sure some minor (if not middle-sized) European air forces would be able to assemble an aerial armada as effective as the one depicted in the photograph below.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

Farnborough 2012: Inside the cockpit of the U.S. MV-22 Osprey, C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III

The three largest U.S. military planes on display at Farnborough International Airshow 2012 are the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, the C-130 Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster III airlifters.

The following pictures bring you inside their cockpits.

Naval Aviation as you've never seen it. Some of the coolest pictures of the U.S. Navy hardware at work

The amount of positive feedbacks I’ve received after publishing an article about aircraft carrier’s recovery operations, proves that Naval Aviation is one of the aircraft enthusiasts’ most loved subjects.

Although I don’t usually publish book reviews, I think there’s a book I have recently had the opportunity to read, that deserves to be mentioned as it captures the vast universe of modern naval aviation better than any other publication has done before: Fly Navy!

Released in 2011 during the U.S. Navy Centennial ceremonies, the book by aviation photographer and author Erik Hildedrandt chronicles all naval aviation systems by means of never before seen photography and through the words of the men and women serving with the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps all around the world.

To collect the material for the book, Hildebrandt has spent 2 years on travel across the planet: he has flown with deployed forces over Afghanistan and Iraq, with the Blue Angels over Hawaii, with VIP and training planes statesite. He has also had the unique opportunity to fly in close formation with some of the most rare unmanned aerial systems, as the Navy Global Hawk drone. The test F-35 is featured as well.

What makes Fly Navy! unique is not only the quality of the innovative aerial images he has brought back from each sortie, but also the personal accounts of those interviewed as well as the photographer’s very special point of view.

Click here to download a pdf file with 36 pages from the book that Hildebrandt has made available to the readers of The Aviationist.

All images, courtesy of Erik Hildebrandt