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Faux MiG in Blue and Grey — a Marine Aggressor from the Snipers

19 October 2012

Faux MiG in Blue and Grey — a Marine Aggressor from the Snipers

35º 44′ 31″ N / 81º 23′ 22″ W

US Marine Corps VMFT 401 Northrop F-5E Tiger II aggressor aircraft at the Hickory Aviation Museum — photo by Joseph May

Like the famous US Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program (also known as Top Gun) the US Marine Corps also trains its pilots using adversary aircraft flown as potential threat air forces would — as well as to their maximum ability. Unlike the richer US Navy, the Marines are lean and mean so their adversary training does not exclusively emphasizing fighter-on-fighter combat tactics but schools a spectrum of pilots how to fly to survive against foreign fighter aircraft entering the combat area. US Marine Corps pilots who fly helicopters to cargo aircraft practice tactics and maneuvers to employ when pitted against threat aircraft by training with the USMC adversary unit VMFT 401 Snipers — which employ the Northrop F-5E Tiger II as the aggressor aircraft. One of these aggressor aircraft is the subject of the images in this post and can be seen at the Hickory Aviation Museum

Nose view of the F-5 (note one of the pair of cannon ports in the nose) — photo by Joseph May

Generally, the F-5 is nimble and simple compared to advanced fighters. There is an air intercept radar but no autopilot — standard armament is one pair of single barrel 20mm cannon and wingtip mounted AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. However, stores can be mounted underwing as well as under the fuselage though at the price of a substantial performance penalty. Each training mission typically lasts less than an hour in the aggressor scenarios with ground based telemetry used to critique the lesson. Hornet pilots learn to react and position for best offense or defense while helicopter and cargo pilots learn to best position their aircraft to buy time until Hornets, or perhaps Harriers, can arrive to relieve the situation.

The F-5 is small as well as nimble but the pilot must be hands on at all times (note the rear view mirror on the left side of the arched canopy frame) — photo by Joseph May

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