US Marine Corps, July 24, 2020 - CAMP PENDLETON, CA by Lance Cpl Drake Nickels - U.S. Marines with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, conducted aerial gunnery ranges at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California, July 15-16, as part of Exercise Summer Fury.
Summer Fury is a three-week training exercise conducted by the Marines and sailors of 3rd MAW, 1st Marine Division and 1st Marine Logistics Group to refine the capabilities of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
“Summer Fury integrates fire from aircraft and ground elements such as artillery and 81mm mortar systems,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Matthew Tate, a pilot with HMLA-169. “At the end of this training exercise the goal is the produce new forward air controllers so in a deployed environment, if needed, we could relieve the guys on the ground with close air support.”
During these ranges the pilots are not only coordinating other aircraft but have to eliminate targets with their own firepower. Doing this takes a great deal of support from their crew chiefs. Crew chiefs can assist by guiding the pilots on target or by firing machine guns from the gunner’s doors.
“We have to make sure all assets are on the same page,” said U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Angel Hernandez, a UH-1Y Venom helicopter crew chief with HMLA-169. “Its important everything is good when we get the order of weapon release.”
The exercise brings together 16 other squadrons representing all aircraft types from 3rd MAW, including AH-1Z Vipers, UH-1Y Venoms, F/A-18 Hornets, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, CH-53E Super Stallions and KC-130J Hercules aircraft.
Summer Fury helps ensure the readiness of 3rd MAW and the Wing’s supporting elements. Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton assists in the efforts by working as a refueling and arming center for 3rd MAW aircraft.