MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
It looks like a scene straight out of a movie. Sleek shapes moving fast and low over a blasted landscape. Destroyed tanks and other vehicles litter the ground, many of them having been shot hundreds of times before. Marines on the ground communicate the target information to the helicopters in the air. Once the helicopters are on track, they launch their tube launched, optically tracked, wire guided missiles and pound the targets below. Once out of missiles, they return to Cherry Point.
Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron conducted training exercises with TOW missiles during exercise MAILED FIST June 13-24, training that provided information that benefits to other units. At the same time as MAILED FIST, ground Marines were using HMLA-467 aircraft to learn how to call in airstrikes.
“We supported the expeditionary warfare training group and their terminal air controller party in their certification of new forward air controllers and joint terminal attack controllers,” said Capt. Christopher J. Myette, the quality assurance officer for HMLA-467. “They got their first look at live aircraft conducting attacks on bombing ranges. That was the focus of our training this week. We do this every month, but this month it happened to coincide with MAILED FIST.”
The training was special for another reason, it is expected to be one of the last times HMLA-467 will ever fire the TOW missile. In the near future, the squadron will use the AH-1Z as the primary attack craft. On the AH-1Z, the TOW compliment will be replaced with Hellfire missiles.
“The main reason for the switch is the accuracy on the Hellfire missile is better and it is more reliable,” said 1st Lt. Brandon D. Kelly, a schedule writer and pilot for HMLA-467. “Eventually, we’ll be getting the AH-1Z model. It can carry more weight and more weapons, but not the TOW.”
In addition to shooting TOW missiles and training forward air controllers, the squadron also conducted a long-range raid in coordination with other 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing assets. They flew up to Fort A.P. Hill, Va., and provided air support for a raiding force of Marines and then brought them back to the air station.
The three facets of MAILED FIST training were a unique experience for HMLA-467, said Myette. The operation was the first of its kind to be held by the Marines on the East Coast and demonstrated the place each unit has in 2nd MAW’s battle mechanics.
“We were one of the numerous 2nd MAW squadrons in the event,” said Maj. Kris L. Faught, the operations officer for HMLA-467. “It was the first opportunity for many of our Marines to see other 2nd MAW assets at work during our training and see the integrated combat power that the Marine Aircraft Wing can bring to bear.”