By Lance Cpl. John Wilkes
Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 will be aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort for approximately three weeks in support of Marine Aircraft Group 31 and Marine Aviation and Weapons Tactics Squadron 1.
The squadron provides air-to-air combat instruction to Fleet Marine Forces and squadrons by replicating enemy aircraft tactics, said Maj. Eddie Jessen, VMFT-401 detachment officer-in-charge. It is the only adversary squadron in the Marine Corps.
“VMFT-401 comes to the Air Station a minimum of twice a year from Yuma, Ariz., in support of MAG-31, however the main focus of this detachment is to support the Marine Division Tactics Course held by MAWTS-1,” said Jessen.
MDTC is a graduate level course that provides F/A-18 Hornet aircrew and Marine air intercept controllers with ground and airborne instruction in doctrine, tactics and weapons considerations for the successful use of Marine fighter attack aircraft in combat.
Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401’s air crew will support approximately three missions per day. Two will be for the MDTC and one in support of MAG-31.
The squadron uses the F-5N Tiger II aircraft. The small, maneuverable aircraft presents a unique challenge for the bulkier F/A-18 Hornet during combat simulations.
The aircraft are painted to resemble Cold War- Era Soviet aircraft including the prominently displayed red star on the vertical staff. Eleven of the squadron’s 12 aircraft are currently aboard the air station.
“We always look forward to coming here,” said Jessen. “This is our job and we love what we do.”