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A KC-130J Super Hercules glides over a mountain top during tactical navigation training near Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., Oct. 23, 2014. The aircraft belongs to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 which conducted the training to improve its naval aviators’ skills. Tactical navigation training allows pilots to hone skills through disparate terrain to avoid ground threats.

Photo by Cpl. J. R. Heins

VMGR-252 hones Tactical Navigation skills

4 Nov 2014 | Cpl. J. R. Heins 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing

Gliding over mountain tops and maneuvering through deep valleys, Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 honed their tactical navigation skills and Assault Landing Zone techniques at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., Oct. 23.

Tactical navigation training simulates a combat environment where ground threats cause pilots to maneuver aircraft through disparate terrain to conceal their location and evade threats.
The two KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft left the airfield in a section formation and traveled in tandem prior to the start of the training.

“In order to avoid radar threats, the Hercules flew as low as 500 feet to blend into the terrain,” said Capt. Mike A. Jordan, a naval aviator with the squadron.

According to Jordan, tactical navigations maneuvers are routine movements for the squadron while deployed with the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response.

“This type of training is great for pilots because it gives them an idea of what the aircraft is capable of,” said Jordan, a native of Decatur, Texas.

During the training, pilots simulate flying in a hostile environment, said Capt. Orlando R. Samudio, a naval aviator with the squadron.

“The route we flew was great for a tactical navigation,” said Jordan, the mission commander for the flight. “There was a lot of terrain that we could bank around and use to mask the aircraft, unlike Cherry Point where the terrain is mostly flat.”
Before the aircraft took off, the air crew was informed on possible threats along the planned flight path, said Samudio, a native of Austin, Texas.

After the TAC NAV maneuvers, the Marines performed several assault landing zone landings, allowing the pilots to enhance their landing skills.

“ALZ landings familiarize pilots with the procedures for landing in a hostile environment, normally austere with small landing strips,” said Jordan.

In a threat environment, the aircraft have the ability to land on both improved and unimproved landing strips, said Samudio. If a mission requires, Hercules pilots can land on a dirt road or in a field.

During the training, the pilots performed the ALZs at Pope Army Airfield, a much smaller air strip than the full sized Hunter Airfield or Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

“The purpose of ALZs is simple,” said Jordan. “They make pilots better at landing and minimizing the ground roll of the aircraft.

2nd Marine Aircraft Wing