ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE TOWNSVILLE, QUEENSVILLE, Australia --
The Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 Black Knights conducted a surge mission in support of Exercise Southern Frontier 2011 during the second day of the exercise Aug. 2.
Southern Frontier is an annual bilateral exercise designed to test and refine Marine aerial units’ ability to provide air interdiction and close-air support to integrated American and Australian ground units.
Japan-based Marine units participating in this year’s Southern Frontier include assets from Marine Aircraft Group 12 Headquarters, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Wing Communication Squadron 18, Marine Air Control Squadron 4 and 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company.
The surge mission required the Black Knights to successfully launch 30 sorties with 11 F/A-18s in one day to deliver ordnance in support of friendly ground movement at the Highrange Townsville Field Training Area.
“This was another major muscle movement to make sure we can actually sustain (a surge mission),” said Lt. Col. Waylan Cain, VMFA -314 commanding officer. The training mission allowed the squadron to identify friction points that might arise should the need for a surge come up in the future, he added.
“It’s almost like (physical training),” said Cain. “You get up there and PT and you have a big surge day — you hit the weights hard and now your muscles start to get that muscle memory and in the future it’s a lot easier.”
Aerial surges are usually used during the beginning stages of combat. The scenario the Black Knights faced tested their ability to continually provide an aerial assault to a specified area on request. VMFA -314 planned for 30 sorties and successfully launched 30 sorties to the Highrange Townsville Field Training Area from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“At the end of the day we actually had a few extra airplanes left over for spare aircraft as well,” said Cain. “If we needed to and if there was a ground commander out there — ‘hey we need some more sorties out and some more ordnance,’ we could have supported that as well.”
The surge not only tested VMFA -314 pilots’ ability to deliver presence and fire power. It also tested Marines’ coordination with their aircraft maintainers, MALS-12 ordnance, MWSS-171 fuel, and their ability to support members of the Australian 4th Regiment who were conducting ground missions in conjunction with 5th ANGLICO at the Highrange Townsville Field Training Area.
“It took basically everyone working together to prove that we can surge if we need to,” said Maj. Michael Lepore, VMFA - 314 operations officer. “We validated that we can do it.”
During the surge, the Black Knights successfully delivered in excess of 120 MK76 practice bombs, 11 BDU-45 practice bombs and shot more than 5,000 rounds from 20 millimeter machine guns.
“(The surge) is a great deterrent,” said Lepore. “We can project 30 F/A-18s within a 12-hour to 14- hour period, that’s a huge deterrent for any enemy that’s thinking about possibly acting up.”
Exercise Southern Frontier ended Aug. 15.