US Amphibious Forces USMC Air Element

The US Marine Corps has an air Element that would rival most Air Forces. With over 1300 airframes, half of which are fixed wing, and the remainder rotary wing, they can bring over 700 combat aircraft to battle, many more than most NATO allies. All but the F/A-18s normally deploy on the various amphibious ships to form the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTAF), in direct support of the ground element in any landing or operation. The Squadrons are highly flexible often deploying on multiple ships or employing aircraft of other squadrons on independent missions.

F/A-18: Hornet. The F/A-18's provide the USMC with an air attack capability as well as the option to conduct air superiority missions, although that is not their primary role. Hornets will normally operate from a land base but are often flow off of USN aircraft carriers, and routinely form part of a Carrier Air Wing (CAW). The USMC uses two types of the F/A-18, the 'A' variant in its VMFA Squadrons (Marine Fighter Attack) and the 'D' variant in its VMFA(AW) (Marine Fighter Attack - All Weather Capable). Due to transition issues, two Sqns in the Pacific are temporarily equipped with the F/A-18C(N) which is a night capable single seat version of the 'D'. The only major variation from history is that in Northern Fury all USMC Reserve Squadrons will receive the F/A-18A, these are 'hand-me-downs' from the USN F/A-18 Sqns which are all transitioning to the 'C' variant early after the demise of the A-6E. With this change in effect, all but one of them have received their aircraft but five of those are still going through conversion training. All F/A-18 Sqns have 12 aircraft except VMFAT-101, the training Sqn which has 30 airframes.

Sqn #NicknameAirframeTaskRemarks
Atlantic
VMFA-115 Silver Eagles F/A-18A Med
VMFA-122 Werewolves F/A-18A CVW 14
VMFA-251 Thunderbolts F/A-18A CVW 6
VMFA-312 Checkerboards F/A-18D CVW 3
VMFA-332 Polka Dots F/A-18D Cherry Pt
VMFA-451 Warlords F/A-18A Med
VMFA-533 Hawks F/A-18D CVW 8
Pacific
VMFA-121 Green Knights F/A-18C(N) CVW 17
VMFA-212 Lancers F/A-18C(N) Kaneohe Bay
VMFA-224 Bengals F/A-18D Iwakuni Jap
VMFA-225 Vikings F/A-18D CVW 17
VMFA-232 Red Devils F/A-18D CVW 17
VMFA-235 Death Angels F/A-18A Kaneohe Bay
VMFA-242 Bats F/A-18D Japan
VFMA-314 Black Knights F/A-18A CVW 11
VMFA-323 Death Rattlers F/A-18A El Toro
VMFA-333 Shamrocks F/A-18A Iwakuni Jap
VMFA-531 Grey Ghosts F/A-18A El Toro
Reserves
VFMA-112 Cowboys F/A-18A Dallas Trained
VMFA-124 Wistling Death F/A-18A Ft Worth Converting
VMFA-131 Dimondbacks F/A-18A NAS Willow Grv Converting
VMFA-133 Dragons F/A-18A Alameda Converting
VFMA-134 Smoke Nil El Toro Waiting for AC
VMFA-142 Flying Gators F/A-18A NAS Cecil Fd Converting
VFMA-321 Hell's Angels F/A-18A Andrews Trained
VMFA-322 Ftg Gamecocks F/A-18A NAS Waymouth Converting
Non Operational
VMFAT-101 Sharpshooters 30x F/A-18A/DEl ToroTraining
F/A-18D from VMFA(AW)-225 'Vikings'

AV-8B Harrier II/II+: The USMC is the only service in the US which uses the Harrier and it has done so since 1968. The current version is the Harrier II+ which will eventually equip six Sqns, however only 4 are equipped with this version at the moment (this is a more rapid transition than historical). The key improvement between the Harrier II and the II+ is the provision of the AN/APG-65 Radar allowing the use of the AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-120 AMRAAM air to air missiles. The Harriers primary mission is to fly off the LHD/LHA ships in support of Marine ground units ashore. The TAV variant is a two seat trainer, solely for use in conversion training.

Sqn #NicknameAirframeTaskRemarks
Atlantic
VMA-223 Bulldogs 22x AV-8B Harrier II Cherry Pt
VMA-231 Ace of Spades 22x AV-8B Harrier II+Cherry Pt
VMA-331 Bumblebees 22x AV-8B Harrier II+Cherry Pt
VMA-542 Flying Tigers 22x AV-8B Harrier II Cherry PtWill convert
Pacific
VMA-211 Wake Avengers 22x AV-8B Harrier II+Iwakuni Jap
VMA-214 Black Sheep 22x AV-8B Harrier II Yuma In Kuwait
VMA-311 Tomcats 22x AV-8B Harrier II+Yuma
VMA-513 Flying Nightmares22x AV-8B Harrier II Yuma Will convert
Non Operational
VMAT-203Hawks16x AV-8B, 26x TAV-8BEl ToroTraining
Two USMC AV-8B Harrier II loaded with AGM-65 Maverick, AIM-9 Sidewinder and GBU-16s

EA-6B: The USMC uses the same Electronic Warfare (EW) as the USN. The EA-6B Sqns are mostly located at MCAS Cherry Point NC but operate detachments around the world when required.

Sqn #NicknameAirframeTaskRemarks
VMAQT-1 Banshee 2 EA-6B Cherry PtTraining
VMAQ-2 Panthers 5x EA-6B Cherry Pt
VMAQ-3 Moon Dogs5x EA-6B Cherry Pt
VMAQ-4 Seahawks 5x EA-6B Cherry Pt
Deployed
VMAQ-2 DetPanthers2x EA-6BIwakuni Jap
EA-6B from VMAQ-2 'Panthers'

OV-10D: Although the OV-10 Bronco was supposed to be retiring in 1995, increased tension meant that since there was nothing available to replace them, they were retained. This decision freed up other resources such as the Harriers and USAF A-10s to focus on major threat areas while the Bronco looked after the low intensity Counter Insurgency (COIN) conflicts, primarily in Central America. Of the 130 originally produced for the USMC, 51 remain.

Sqn #NicknameAirframeTaskRemarks
Atlantic
VMO-1Yazoo22x OV-10DNew River
Pacific
VMO-2 Cherry Deuce22x OV-10DEl Toro
VMO-2 Det 7x OV-10D Iwakuni Jap
OV-10D Observation and light attack aircraft

KC-130: The USMC uses the venerable C-130 Hercules almost exclusively in the 'Tanker' role, light tactical transport is also conducted but they rely on the USN and USAF to provide surge tactical transport when needed. Pilot and crew training is also conducted with the USAF, although specific air to air refuelling and currency training is conducted by VMGRT-253. Because of the deployed nature of USMC forces there is a need for deployed KC-130 elements throughout the globe to support Amphibious Ready Groups (ARG) and other elements - this support is almost always provided by VMGR-252 which usually has between 10 and 20 KC-130s deployed. Three versions of the 'Hurc' are in use in 1994; legacy KC-130F which date from the 1960's, improved KC-130R and the latest KC-130T with updated avionics.

Sqn #NicknameAirframeTaskRemarks
Atlantic
VMGR-252 Otis 8x KC-130F, 4x KC-130R Cherry Pt
VMGR-252 Otis (Depl Det) 9x KC-130F, 12x KC-130R Cherry Pt
VMGRT-253 Titans 6x KC-130F Cherry Pt
Pacific
VMGR-152 Sumos 13x KC-130 Futenma Jap
VMGR-352 Raiders 3x KC-130F, 10x KC-130R El Toro
KC-130F from VMGR-252 'Otis' refuelling CH-53E's

AH-1W: The 'Whiskey Cobra'. The Cobra has been key to USMC ground support since early in the Viet Nam war, the 'Whiskey' is the standard version used in 1994, it is night capable and able to fire either 8x TOW or Hellfire missiles.

UH-1N: Twin Huey. HMLA (Marine Helicopter Light Attack) Sqns are equipped both with the Whiskey Cobra and the UH-1N Huey. These two aircraft work together to provide ground support with the Huey conducting the reconnaissance and observation while the Cobra maneuvers to the best engagement position before exposing itself. In the USMC Reserve each Sqn is equipped with a single aircraft but they are grouped for operations.

Sqn #NicknameAirframeTaskRemarks
Atlantic
HMLA-167 Warriors 14x AH-1W, 12x UH-1N New River
HMLA-269 Gunrunners 14x AH-1W, 12x UH-1N New River
HMLA-467 Sabers 14x AH-1W, 12x UH-1N New River
Pacific
HMLA-169 Vipers 14x AH-1W, 12x UH-1N El Toro
HMLA-267 Stingers 14x AH-1W, 16x UH-1N El Toro
HMLA-367 Scarface 17x AH-1W, 7x UH-1N El Toro
HMLA-369 Gunfighters 12x AH-1W, 14x UH-1N Futenma Jap
Det Gunfighters 4x AH-1W, 3x UH-1N Okinawa
Reserves
HMA-773 Red Dogs 15x AH-1W NAS Atlanta
HMA-775 Coyotes 15x AH-1W MCAS Pendleton
HML-767 Nomads 13x UH-1N NAS New Orleans
HML-771 Hammers 8x UH-1N NAS S Waymouth
HML-776 Gangsters 7x UH-1N NAS Glenview
Non Operational
HMLAT-303 Atlas 10x AH-1W, 7x UH-1N Pendleton Training
AH-1W 'Whiskey Cobra'

UH-1N 'Twin Huey'

CH-46E: 'Sea Knight'. Known as 'Phrogs' these twin rotor workhorses are the standard medium lift helicopter in the USMC. They can carry 24 Marines fully loaded with their combat equipment or 2.5 tons of cargo either internally or slung underneath. Additionally, they are often configured for Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), or Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions where they can carry 15 stretchers. An upgrade program to extend the range of the 'Sea Knight' is ongoing and most Squadrons have at least 2-4 of these upgraded 'Phrogs'.

Sqn #NicknameAirframeTaskRemarks
Atlantic
HMM-162 Golden Eagles 12x CH-46E New River
HMM-261 Raging Bulls 12x CH-46E New River
HMM-263 Thunder Eagles 12x CH-46E New River
HMM-264 Black Knights 12x CH-46E New River
HMM-265 Blue Knights 12x CH-46E New River
HMM-266 Fighting Griffons12x CH-46E New River
Pacific
HMM-161 Greyhawks 12x CH-46E Okinawa
HMM-163 Evil Eyes 12x CH-46E Tustin
HMM-164 Knightriders 12x CH-46E Tustin
HMM-165 White Knights12x CH-46E Kaneohe Bay
HMM-166 Sea Elks 12x CH-46E Tustin
HMM-262 Flying Tigers12x CH-46E Kaneohe Bay
HMM-265 Dragons 12x CH-46E Futenma Jap
HMM-268 Red Dragons 12x CH-46E Tustin
HMM-364 Purple Foxes 12x CH-46E Kaneohe Bay
Reserves
HMM-764 Moonlighters 12x CH-46E El Toro
HMM-774 Wild Goose 14x CH-46E NAS Norfolk
Non Operational
HMMT-301Windwalkers 10x CH-46 Tustin Training
HMMT-204Raptors 10x CH-46 New River Training
CH-46E from HMM-268 'Red Dragons' picks up a slung load

CH-53: In 1994 the USMC flew both the CH-53D 'Sea Stallion' and the CH-53E 'Super Stallion'. These aircraft provide the USMC with the heavy lift it needs to deploy Marine ground elements quickly onto the battlefield with the combat power needed to win the day. The 'Sea Stallion' is one of the fastest helicopters in the world even when carrying a heavy load. The 'Super Stallion' in addition to keeping the speed of the earlier model is one of the largest helicopters in the world.

Sqn #NicknameAirframeTaskRemarks
Atlantic
HMH-362 Ugly Angles 16x CH-53D New River
HMH-366 Hammerheads 16x CH-53E New River
HMH-461 Ironhorse 18x CH-53E New River
HMH-464 Condors 18x CH-53E New River
HMH-362 Ugly Angles 16x CH-53D New River
Pacific
HMH-361 Flying Tigers 16x CH-53E Tustin
HMM-363 Red Lions 16x CH-53D Futenma Jap
HMH-462 Heavy Haulers 16x CH-53E Tustin
HMH-463 Pineapples 16x CH-53D Kaneohe Bay
HMH-465 War Horses 16x CH-53E Tustin
Det War Horses 4x CH-53E Okinawa
HMH-466 Wolf Pack 16x CH-53E Tustin
HMH-769 Titan 16x CH-53E Tustin
Reserves
HMH-772 Hustler 7x CH-53D NAS Alameda
Det Hustler 6x CH-53D NAS Dallas
Hustler 6x CH-53D NAS Willow Gr
Non Operational
HMHT-302Phoenix 12x CH-53D, 12x CH-53E New River Training
CH-53E taking off from an LHD (Wasp Class)