Future Appears Bright for MCAS
In the face of federal budget cuts, some military bases have lost funding. Some also have closed.
However, Yuma’s premier aviation training base, the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS), has faced budget cuts before while continuing to accomplish its mission — providing aviation ranges, support facilities, and services to its tenants, to other Marine Corps commands, to visiting military and to interagency forces.
If its past records and achievements attest to the future, its future appears optimistic. MCAS has an impressive record that is likely to influence Congress to continue funding the air station’s mission to ensure combat readiness in the country’s defense.
Twice a year, Yuma welcomes participants from Marine commands worldwide, to include Okinawa and Iwakuni in Japan for specialized, in-depth training through the MCAS Weapons and Tactics Instructor course (WTI), which began in 1978. The WTI program’s goal is to produce pilots who are Weapons and Tactics instructors. Public Affairs officials at the base said that its seven-week course tests the entirety of the participating units, including specialists in logistics, communications ordnance, fuel and intelligence.
WTI subject matter experts provide the latest instruction in cross-domain warfare in programs comparable to those of the Navy’s Topgun Fighter Weapons and the Air Force Weapons Schools. The Marines ultimately apply their knowledge in the live employment of weapons in multiple scenarios on nearby ranges in Arizona and California. (Curt Jans, www.https://fightersweep.com)
In addition to keeping abreast of the latest in aviation warfare strategies, upgradings of technology and equipment play key roles in MCAS’s future combat readiness. Last year, for instance, a new squadron with more high tech equipment made its debut at MCAS.
Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) found a new home at MCAS, while Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211) has transitioned from the AV-8B Harrier to the F-35 as Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211).
Additionally, the ability to maintain uninterrupted power increased last December with the completion of a 25-megawatt microgrid, for which the Department of the Navy partnered with Arizona Public Service to build at MCAS. It provides enough backup power for all of the current and projected base’s energy requirements.
“This project will make MCAS Yuma 100 percent resilient to external grid failures and is an example of an effort that will ensure our bases remain at the forefront of the defense of the country,” said Maj. Gen. John J. Broadmeadow, commander of Marine Corps Installations Command at the microgrid ribbon cutting ceremony. He said that this should ensure no disruptions to the base’s mission.
With Yuma’s excellent flying weather, MCAS is able to support 80 percent of the Corps’ air-to-ground aviation on its access to more than one million acres of bombing and aviation training ranges. APS officials at the base said that the air station annually “hosts numerous units and aircraft from the U.S. and NATO forces.”
Although WTI courses occur twice yearly, training at MCAS continues year around for the approximately 4,000 active-duty Marines, along with some Navy personnel. The MCAS website says that the air station “hosts approximately 70 aviation units, bringing an average of 600 aircraft and 14,000 personnel for ongoing training that takes place throughout the year.”
Another chapter in its history also suggests MCAS’s future solidarity in its aircraft testing innovations.
The summer of 2015 saw the arrival of Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 22 (VMX-22) to MCAS Yuma for the purpose of providing integrated operational testing, PAO officials said. In these procedures VMX-22’s primary responsibility is to conduct operational tests in support of newly developed aircraft and programs.
About a year ago, VMX-22 squadron was re-designated as VMX-1, reflecting the consolidation in Yuma as the Corps’ premier fixed wing, tiltrotor, aviation command and control, and unmanned aerial systems test squadron, PAO officials said.
Another historic milestone five years ago occurred when Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) became the world’s first operational F-35 squadron at MCAS Yuma.
With its training that MCAS offers, its extensive practice ranges, its high level of technology, its ongoing testing of aircraft, and Yuma’s exceptional weather conditions for testing, nothing–short of Congressional failure to fund it–should hinder its future.
As a line posted May 12 on the US Marines’ Twitter page says, “As long as there are battles, there will always be Marines.”
By Sylvia Allen, July 10, 2017
Photos by Sylvia Allen/Loaned