Tag Archives: U.S. Marine Corps

Commanding Officer of the Harrier squadron decimated at Camp Bastion among the Marines killed in the Taliban attack

The Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 211 “Avengers” that was decimated on Friday Sept. 14, when a force of insurgents attacked Camp Bastion, in Helmand, has not only lost two Marines and eight of the ten AV-8B+ Harrier jets deployed in Afghanistan.

According to UTSanDiego.com, Marine and family sources have confirmed that Lt. Col. Chris “Otis” Raible, commanding officer of the Yuma squadron is among the killed in action of the unprecedented attack that resulted in the destruction of six jump jets and significant damage (possibly beyond repair) to two more Harriers belonging to the VMA-211, the unit he commanded.

The VMA-211 is part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing headquartered in San Diego at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Raible led the “Avengers” when the unit, deployed to Afghanistan in April 2012, relocated from Kandahar Airfield to Camp Bastion on Jul. 1 and he’s depicted in most of the images released by the U.S. Marine Corps to give account of the transfer.

Image credit: U.S. Marine Corps

Camp Bastion was in close proximity to all the units they supported and this gave the VMA-211 the opportunity to conduct more combat operations and communicate more effectively with the ground combat element.

Unfortunately neither Raible nor the rest of the “Avengers” could predict the attack that cost the U.S. the worst air loss to enemy fire in one day since the Vietnam War, that has rendered the Squadron unable to support the troops in the ground and compelled the Marine Corps to fly the remaining two airframes back home.

Image credit: 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.