THROUGH THE LENS: The USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA)

THROUGH THE LENS: The USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA)

Report and photos by Steven Valinski

March 4, 2018

According to the 2017 Marine Aviation Plan, USMC HMLAs, “Support the MAGTF commander by providing offensive air support, utility support, armed escort and airborne supporting arms coordination, day or night under all weather conditions during expeditionary, joint or combined operations. Conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions and MAGTF electronic warfare missions.”

Additionally, “MARINE LIGHT ATTACK HELICOPTER TRAINING SQUADRON (HMLAT) Conduct combat capable attack training for selected aircrews in the UH-1Y, AH-1W and AH-1Z aircraft, and provide technical training for aviation maintenance personnel.”

HMLA units fly the Bell UH-1Y “Yankee” Venom, Bell AH-1W “Whiskey” Super Cobra and the Bell AH-1Z “Zulu” Viper. The HMLAs are currently transitioning from the AH-1W to the AH-1Z. According to the 2018 Marine Aviation plan, this transition is approximately 40% complete.

The 2018 Marine Aviation Plan explains the value of the H-1 aircraft to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), “H‐1s provide attack and utility capability and provide the MAGTF with fires, lift, escort, assault support, close air support, control of aircraft and missiles and command and control capability. The H‐1 can fly from ship or shore, day or night, in support of MAGTF tasking and the ground scheme of maneuver.”

The following aircraft profiles are from the 2018 Marine Aviation Plan:

AH‐1W

The AH‐1W SuperCobra is a combat‐proven force multiplier for the MAGTF providing close air support, strike coordination and reconnaissance, armed reconnaissance, escort, forward air controller airborne, and air interdiction.

Aircraft Specifications

• Empty Weight: 10,750 pounds

• Max Gross Weight: 14,750 pounds

• Useful Payload: 3,986 pounds (HOGE)

• Speed (Cruise/Max): 131 kts/ 170 kts

Configuration

• Weapons Stations: Four

• Armament: 20mm cannon; 2.75 rockets (to include APKWS); TOW,

HELLFIRE with multiple warhead configurations; AIM‐9

• Sensors: Night Targeting System Upgrade, FLIR, TV

• Networked Systems: Tactical Video Date Link (90 aircraft)

• ASE:AAR‐47, ALE‐47 Dual Dispenser Pods, ALQ‐144, and APR‐39

Notional Mission Profile

• OAS

• Range/Time on Station (TOS)‐ 50nm transit, 0+30 TOS, 50nm

RTB

• Loadout‐ (8) HELLFIRE, (38) 2.75” rockets, (500) 20mm

AH‐1Z

The cockpit systems assimilate planning, communications, navigation, digital fire control, day/night targeting, and weapons systems in mirror-imaged crew stations.

Aircraft Specifications

• Empty Weight: 12,300 pounds

• Max Gross Weight: 18,500 pounds

• Useful Payload: 5,764 pounds (HOGE)

• Speed (Cruise/Max): 139 kts/ 190 kts

Configuration

• Weapons Stations: Six

• Armament: 20mm cannon, 2.75 rockets, HELLFIRE with multiple warhead configurations and AIM‐9 Sidewinder

• Sensors: TSS

• Networked Systems: ANW2, DI FMV

• ASE: AAR‐47 B(V)2, ALE‐47, and APR‐39

Notional Mission Profile

• OAS

• Range/Time on Station‐ 50nm transit, 1+00 TOS, 50nm RTB

• Loadout‐ (8) HELLFIRE, (38) 2.75” rockets, (500) 20mm

UH‐1Y

The cockpit systems assimilate planning, communications, navigation, digital fire control, day/night targeting, and weapons systems in mirror-imaged crew stations.

Aircraft Specifications

• Empty Weight: 11,840 pounds

• Max Gross Weight: 18,500 pounds

• Useful Payload: 5,930 pounds (HOGE)

• Speed (Cruise/Max): 139 kts/ 170 kts

Configuration

• Weapons Stations: Two

• Armament: 2.75‐inch rockets, fixed forward or crew served 7.62mm/GAU‐17A gun and or crew served M240D/GAU‐16/GAU‐21 machine guns, APKWS

• Sensors: Brite Star Block II, Intrepid Tiger II

• Networked Systems: ANW2, DI FMV

• ASE: AAR‐47, ALE‐47, and APR‐39

Notional Mission Profile

• OAS

• Range/Time on Station‐ With utility payload, eight combat-loaded Marines (240 pounds each), two fastropes, two IDAS mounts with weapons: 119 nm transit, 0+20 TOS, RTB with 20 minute fuel reserve

With the USMC’s goal of having every aircraft be a sensor, shooter and sharer, there will be an increased emphasis on digital interoperability (DI) for these aircraft. The DI focus will be on DI-FMV, Link-16 and Tactical Secure Voice.

In addition, initiatives such as future vertical lift (FVL), all weather navigation and operation, and stores and extended range, are all part of the present and future HMLA. Future weapons initiatives include the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) and AIM-9X Sidewinder.

The ALQ-231 Intrepid Tiger Pod (IT II) is expected to add jamming capabilities to these aircraft in line with the MAGTF EW initiatives.

There are currently seven active HMLA squadrons organized to break down into detachments of five AH-1 and four UH-1. Additionally there is one full reserve squadron, one reserve squadron (minus) and one fleet replacement squadron.

USMC HMLA Squadrons

SquadronNicknameBase
HMLA-167WarriorsMCAS New River, NC
HMLA-169VipersMCAS Camp Pendleton, CA
HMLA-267StingersMCAS Camp Pendleton, CA
HMLA-269The GunrunnersMCAS New River, NC
HMLA-367ScarfaceMCAS Kaneohe Bay, HI
HMLA-369GunfightersMCAS Camp Pendleton, CA
HMLA-469VengeanceMCAS Camp Pendleton, CA
HMLA-773Red DogJoint Base McGuire–Dix–Lakehurst, NJ
HMLA-775CoyoteMCAS Camp Pendleton, CA
HMLAT-303AtlasMCAS Camp Pendleton, CA

Here we take a look at USMC HMLAs, ‘THROUGH THE LENS’…

USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA

Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) Laser, infrared Guided Rocket (LiGR)

USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA

USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA

Readying the .50 Cal

USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA

“Target Destroyed”

USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA USMC Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron HMLA

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Steven Valinski
Steven is from Long Island, New York and now resides in sunny Mesa, Arizona. Steven’s love for aviation began when he was a child with a fascination for WWII aircraft. This love of aviation was further fostered by his uncle, a long-time Trans World Airlines (TWA) employee who had a passion for all forms of aviation.

Steven’s interest in photography began when he was 16 years old when he received his first SLR camera, a Minolta XGA. It makes sense that eventually his passion for aviation and photography would merge into a love for aviation photography.

In addition to being the web designer, webmaster and chief editor of Aviation Photography Digest, Steven has been published in numerous magazines worldwide.

Steven has an M.S. from Boston University and uses Nikon photographic equipment.

Steven is a Nikon NPS Titanium member.

Steven can be reached at: [email protected]

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