An AV-8B Harrier belonging to Marine Attack Squadron 311 taxis after landing aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) while underway in the Pacific Ocean, June 9, 2017. VMA-311 is the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s fixed-wing attack asset and is currently attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), the 31st MEU’s Aviation Combat Element. During the flight the Harrier’s pilot fired the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), a laser-guided rocket, for the first time in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The 31st MEU partners with the Navy’s Amphibious Squadron 11 to form amphibious component of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group. The 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11 combine to provide a cohesive blue-green team capable of accomplishing a variety of missions across the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Stormy Mendez)
Aviation Boatswain™s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Morgan Jackson, from Los Angeles, gives the signal for an AV-8B Harrier, assigned to the Ridge Runners of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, to take off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), April 12, 2017. Makin Island, the flagship for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, with the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance amphibious capability with regional partners and to serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency. (Photo by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Devin M. Langer)
U.S. Marines with Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311 inspect and conduct maintenance on an AV-8B Harrier during Exercise MAX THUNDER 17 at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 18, 2017. Max Thunder serves as an opportunity for U.S. and ROK forces to train together and sharpen tactical skills for the defense of the Asia-Pacific region. It is an annual military-flying exercise built to promote interoperability between U.S. and ROK forces. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Carlos Jimenez)
USS BONHOMME RICHARD, Pacific Ocean -- Marines with Marine Attack Squadron 311 (VMA-311), currently attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), conducted training with the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System for the first time in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region during live-fire training in the skies above the W-183 range training area, Okinawa, Japan, June 9, 2017.
VMA-311 pilots fly AV-8B Harrier jets – fixed-wing aircraft capable of operating from the flight decks of amphibious warfare vessels.
The Harriers launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), the flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group. VMM-265 is the Aviation Combat Element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is currently embarked aboard the ships of the BHR ESG for a routine patrol of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
The APKWS is a low-cost, laser-guided, modular system that attaches to unguided munitions. The APKWS gives Harrier pilots a lighter, precision air-to-ground attack option. Harrier pilots usually fire unguided rockets or drop unguided 500 pound bombs to destroy enemy threats, according to Capt. Paul M. Gucwa, a Harrier pilot with VMA-311.
“We took eight shots and hit the target with all eight, and every single one of them was perfect,” said Gucwa. “It worked completely as advertised. From bringing the system up from the bottom of the ship all the way to putting them on the target, it all went absolutely outstanding.”
Before mounting the weapons, VMA-311 aviation ordnance Marines pulled eight 2.75 inch rockets out of the BHR’s munitions magazines, where ordnance is stored when the ship is underway. They then affixed the APKWSs to a pair of Harriers before the pilots departed the BHR, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric J. McCoy.
“It’s incredible to see the pilots come back with no ordnance after seeing my Marines out on the flight deck training and sweating under the sun,” said McCoy.
Throughout the training, aviation ordnance Marines worked alongside their Navy counterparts on the flight deck to prepare the AKPWS and to ensure safety for all involved. According to McCoy, refining the Navy-Marine Corps team was a supplementary goal of the exercise.
“Not only did we conduct this exercise to test VMA-311’s ability to tactically employ the weapon system, but also to test both VMA-311 and our Navy partners’ proficiency at supporting the ESG’s mission,” said McCoy.
The 31st MEU partners with the Navy’s Amphibious Squadron 11 to form the amphibious component of the BHR ESG. The 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11 combine to provide a cohesive blue-green team capable of accomplishing a variety of missions across the Indo-Asia-Pacific.