“VMFA-312 is one of two squadrons within the Marine Corps that almost exclusively deploys aboard aircraft carriers,” said Capt. Cole Hatch, a pilot and the airframes officer in charge with VMFA-312. “This field carrier landing practice is going to give us the training that we need as pilots to go out in the upcoming months to land on aircraft carriers.”
The air station’s flight line is equipped with a painted outfight lining an aircraft carrier that the pilots utilize as a training aid prior to participating in exercises or deployments aboard an actual carrier.
“The FCLPs aboard the air station allow our pilots to train in a controlled environment,” said Hatch. “This type of training is something that we do regularly. Each time we go out, it is important to get back in the right mindset. When we land on a carrier the aircraft is going roughly 150 miles per hour and there are only so many wires that the tail hook on the back of the aircraft can catch.”
According to Hatch who is a landing signals officer there are multiple factors that compromise a successful and safe landing aboard a carrier. The LSO communicates with the pilot and the pilot uses the Improved Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System, which is a highly precise landing aid that analyzes the glide slope of the incoming aircraft and the movement of the carrier.
“The training that these pilots are going to gain from this FCLP is that they are so precise with their aircraft that they can hit a two-by-two foot square with their tail hook,” said Hatch. “Our ability to conduct flight operations when embarked on an aircraft carrier is another tool for the Marine Corps to have the ability to exercise projection of power.”
As the nation’s ready expeditionary force the Marine Corp’s predominant mode of warfare is maritime warfare. The F-18 Hornet community’s ability to work cohesively with all elements of a Marine Air Ground Task Force is shown in their tactical air integration missions and training exercises such as this FCLP and the upcoming embarkation aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in April.
“The F-18 is a multi-role aircraft, but in the past ten years the Marine Corps has utilized it primarily for close air support,” said Hatch. “In the upcoming months, and years, we will continue to provide close air support for our ground units. Whether for training or a deployment we are mission ready to fill that role.”