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Marine Corps Installations Pacific

Pilots evade Smokey SAMs

By Lance Cpl. Natalie Rostran | Marine Corps Installations Pacific | August 29, 2013

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A Smokey SAM, also known as a GTR-18, travels through the air Aug. 27 on a training island off the coast of Ie Shima.

A Smokey SAM, also known as a GTR-18, travels through the air Aug. 27 on a training island off the coast of Ie Shima. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Natalie M. Rostran)


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A KC-130J Super Hercules releases flares Aug. 27 above a training island off the coast of Ie Shima. The flares are used to create new heat signature decoys for heat-seeking missiles to follow. The KC-130Js are with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

A KC-130J Super Hercules releases flares Aug. 27 above a training island off the coast of Ie Shima. The flares are used to create new heat signature decoys for heat-seeking missiles to follow. The KC-130Js are with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Natalie M. Rostran)


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Lance Cpl. Bradley J. Vicchiollo prepares a Smokey SAM rocket Aug. 27 on a training island off the coast of Ie Shima. Vicchiollo is an aviation ordnance technician with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Lance Cpl. Bradley J. Vicchiollo prepares a Smokey SAM rocket Aug. 27 on a training island off the coast of Ie Shima. Vicchiollo is an aviation ordnance technician with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Natalie M. Rostran)


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IE SHIMA, OKINAWA, Japan -- Pilots of CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters and KC-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft practiced their threat reaction flight techniques using simulated missiles Aug. 27 on a training island off the coast of Ie Shima.

The CH-46E pilots are with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. The KC-130J pilots are with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, MAG-36.

The simulated missiles were GTR-18 surface-to-air missiles, or better known as, “Smokey SAMs,” which are small rockets used to simulate the launch of a surface-to-air missile, according to Sgt. David S. Chang, an aviation ordnance technician with VMGR-152. “The name comes from the white smoke that trails from the rocket after launch. The pilots have to react to that smoke and perform threat reactions and evasive maneuvers.”

The Smokey SAMs are constructed from paper and plastic foam.

“This training is a safe way to practice threat reactions,” said Chang. “It helps pilots practice the maneuvers they will need to avoid getting shot down during combat, without the threat of real danger or danger to the aircraft.”

The threat response and evasive maneuvers make the training defense-oriented, meaning the pilots are trying to keep their crew, passengers and cargo safe, as well as the aircraft.

“The main goal of (the pilot) is to safeguard the crew and passengers,” said Capt. William F. Lipstreu, a KC-130J pilot with VMGR-152. “We take a lot of Marines where they need to go and that includes combat zones, if necessary. Marines should know that they’ll be safe in our hands because of training like this.” 

The Smokey SAM training also keeps pilots prepared in the case of a significant ground-to-air threat during a combat situation.

“Some of the new pilots that arrive to the squadron have no combat experience,” said Lipstreu. “It’s more difficult to get combat trained now, due to the fact that there are very few combat missions at this time.

“This training simulates a combat environment, which keeps us better prepared for tactical missions in our area of operations,” said Lipstreu.

The two helicopters went first, flying together, and evaded the first set of Smokey SAMs.

The KC-130Js then had their turn. The missiles were aimed at different areas of the aircraft. After evading the missiles, the aircraft used flares to create new heat signature decoys for any other new enemy missiles to follow.

“Flares are ejected and fan out behind the aircraft,” said Lipstreu. “While they act as decoys, pilots run evasive maneuvers until the surface-to-air threat has been removed.”

Pilots in the MAG are required to keep their threat reaction training up to date annually.

“Each pilot gets to do the training a few times a year and the squadron does the training two to three times a month,” said Lipstreu.
The training gives the pilots and crew an idea of how they would react and contribute in the course of combat and legitimate surface-to-air threats.

“Just like all our training, it is important to be ready to fight and win when we get there,” said Capt. Michael S. Linhares, a CH-46 pilot with HMM-262. “This training is essential for mission readiness and critical for success in any clime and place.”
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