The US Marine Corps’s recently released 2017 Aviation Plan contained several interesting changes to previous annual plans. Among the most innovative was the creation of Marine Composite Training Squadrons that would support fixed wing adversary, fleet Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) and Forward Air Controller (Airborne) training requirements. The concept would utilize the F-5N Tiger II or a similar aircraft to support adversary training for fixed- and rotary-wing squadrons. Additionally, a turboprop aircraft and/or unmanned platform would augment close air support (CAS) training for TACP and FAC(A). To support this plan the Marines would acquire 12 additional F-5-type fighters and up to 24 turboprop-powered light attack platforms.
The Training Squadrons (VMT) would be based at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, MCAS Miramar, California, and MCAS Yuma, Arizona, and each would operate six of each aircraft type. The Corps currently operates just 12 F-5N/Fs with VMFT-401 ‘Snipers’ from Yuma that are deployed to the other locations to support training. Plans are already underway for VMFT-401 to establish a detachment or even a new squadron at MCAS Beaufort to support F-35 training requirements in Fiscal 2018.