MCAS Yuma – 2/26/2014
Article and Photos by Steven Valinski
One of the jewels (well, at least for aviation enthusiasts) of the Sonoran Desert, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma is one of the premier USMC Air Stations in the United States. MCAS Yuma is home to several AV-8B Harrier II squadrons, an air combat adversary squadron, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (which is responsible for facilitating the USMC Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) exercises), and is the initial operating base for the F-35 “B” Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Eventually, MCAS Yuma will host 5 operational F-35B squadrons and 1 test and evaluation squadron.
|Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211)||Wake Island Avengers||McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II
|Marine Attack Squadron 214 (VMA-214)||Black Sheep||McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II
|Marine Attack Squadron 311 (VMA-311)||Tomcats||McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II
|Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401)||Snipers||Northrop F-5N Tiger II
|Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121)||Green Knights||Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II
In addition to aircraft from the host squadrons, aircraft from neighboring bases such as MCAS Miramar and NAF El Centro can often been seen flying in, out, and over MCAS Yuma. This, combined with some great locations to observe/photograph from, makes MCAS Yuma a great place for aircraft observation/photography. The big draw comes twice per year when MCAS Yuma hosts the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, simply known as “WTI”. With multiple guest squadrons being hosted during WTI, it is a time when aviation enthusiasts can see an excellent variety of USMC aircraft. This includes fixed-wing aircraft and rotorcraft.
Several aviation photographer friends and I had the pleasure of spending last Wednesday photographing aircraft outside MCAS Yuma. There was plenty of activity throughout the day. The Harriers and F-5’s were busy and there were several launches of F-35’s. Lockheed C-130H’s from the 133rd Airlift Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard were visiting and flew several sorties throughout the day. The “glorious surprise” of the day was 2 five-ship launches of F-16AM’s from the Belgian Air Component heading to Nellis AFB to participate in Red Flag 14-2. The visitors from the Belgian Air Component spent the last few weeks at MCAS Yuma “tuning up” for the Red Flag exercise. In addition to the above, we caught several USMC rotorcraft such as a SAR Huey, a Cobra, and an Osprey.
I cannot remember a bad day photographing aircraft at MCAS Yuma. I remember once stopping there an hour before sunset on the way home from a vacation in San Diego, CA. In that last “golden hour” I was able to photograph over 15 arrivals. Since that faithful day, I am highly motivated to visit MCAS Yuma when I get the chance, especially during WTI.