by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
4/22/2015 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- The
Nevada Test and Training Range was part of history April 21, when four
U.S. Marine Corps-assigned F-35B Lightning IIs participated in its first
Marine Corps' Final Exercise of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor
course on the NTTR's ranges.
The Final Exercise, or FINEX, is the capstone event to the U.S. Marine
Corps Marine Aviation Weapons Tactics Squadron 1's seven-week WTI course
and is a semi-annual, large-force employment exercise held throughout
This particular evolution of FINEX employed the F-35Bs as part of the
"Blue" strike package whose objective was to degrade, depress and
destroy integrated air defense systems and other ground targets on the
NTTR, which were guarded by "Red" adversary aircraft from Marine Corps
Air Station Yuma, Arizona, and Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Geoff Franks, MAWTS-1 weapons school instructor
and F-18 Hornet instructor pilot, explained the importance of
integrating the F-35B into exercises like FINEX and the role the Air
Force has played in helping MAWTS-1 generate tactics, techniques and
procedures for Marine pilots of the fifth-generation aircraft.
"What we've done is we've leveraged the Air Force heavily because the
Air Force is way ahead of the game in terms of fourth to fifth
integration -- integrating fourth-gen assets like the F-15 (Eagle) with
fifth-gen assets like the F-22 (Raptor)," Franks said. "Now as the F-35
has come along, which for the Marine Corps the F-35 is going to (initial
operational capability) around July, we need to be postured to teach
tactics to the F-18 community so the Marine F-18 fleet will be able to
start integrating with the F-35s.
"In order to do that, we have leveraged heavily the proven, published
TTPs that the Air Force has been using for about a decade," Franks
continued. "One of the limiting factors of fifth-gen assets is they
can't carry as much ordnance (as fourth-gen assets), so if you can
maximize the lethality of fifth-gen assets using fourth-gen, we will
become a very lethal and survivable force."
Franks also explained why MAWTS-1 WTI cadre love exercises on the NTTR.
"We do it on the NTTR because of the unique nature of what we can do
there -- the NTTR offers a unique opportunity for students, and the
F-35, to operate in a heavily-contested environment," Franks said. "I
will always bring in U.S. Air Force assets because it further increases
our learning for our students. If they learn to (operate in) that
heavily contested, very difficult mission set like what we can provide
them in the NTTR, they see the benefit."
U.S. Air Force Col. Thomas E. Dempsey III, NTTR commander, said the NTTR
offers users more than just its 2.9 million acres of land and 5,000
square miles of airspace.
"The NTTR ties all domains -- air, space and cyber -- into operational
realistic training and readiness, so the Marines choose this as their
battle space for their graduate-level graduation exercise because we, in
an operationally-integrated mentality, offer the best battle space to
get at the systems and the complexities that the F-35 brings," Dempsey
said. "That's the thing about the NTTR that sets us apart from everybody
else is not just the physical land space, but the systems that we can
challenge aircrews with. We offer the most comprehensive environment for
warfighter realism training."
In addition to the Marine Corps' semi-annual, large-force employment
exercises, Martin Blount, NTTR project manager, said the NTTR supports
another 8-10 Marine Corps training entities on the range per year,
including the U.S. Marine Corps Program Office, which conducts
shelf-life testing of munitions.