MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 223 conducted simultaneous training operations while beginning readiness for upcoming Marine Expeditionary Unit deployments with the 31st and 22nd MEU’s Monday.
While pilots conducted simulated amphibious assault ship landings and takeoffs from a mock LHD flight deck, Marines trained as landing signal officers from one of the Bogue towers. Landing signal officers control recovery and departure of aircraft aboard aircraft carriers.
Capt. Steven Zalewski, assistant operations officer with VMA-223, said this is the first stage for the pilots to become carrier qualified.
The matting design at Bogue replicates an amphibious ship’s landing deck and offers pilots a safe training alternative when actual ships are not available. This training serves as a stepping-stone to performing real-time operations on ship.
“The only way we can operate on ship is to successfully take off and land on ship,” he said.
VMA-223 continued their training through Wednesday conducting day and night operations. During the night portion, the pilots conducted their exercises both with and without the help of night vision goggles.
“The most dangerous part of Harrier operations is in or around the boat at night,” said Zalewski. “Taking off or landing on the boat at night is extremely difficult because of where we’re going in the world. It’s not darker than normal, the performance margins the aircraft has due to the temperature, humidity and low station pressure forces us to be on our game for every single landing.”
The carrier qualification is the baseline of carrier operations. During the next couple of months, the pilots will continue training out of Bogue, conducting simulated close-air support missions with live ordnance used at range BT-11 to be prepared for real-time operations.