Working the Tactics and Training of F-35Bs with VMFA-121: The Perspective of Maj Roger “HASMAT” Greenwood


2014-08-10 By Robbin Laird and Ed Timperlake

Major Greenwood is one of the two MAWTS-1 officers involved with the F-35 and standing up the initial division within MAWTS to develop tactics and implement training for the new platform in order to integrate it into the MAGTF.

The other is Major Noble, whom we interviewed earlier in a phone interview.

Major Greenwood:

We are really starting to stand up the capability of the F-35 and working on its integration.

We have started flying the F-35 in WTI events here at MAWTS, one of which was an event called AAW2, which is a big defensive counter-air event that we run during WTI, and has been the biggest event that they’ve flown in to-date.

We had some fairly good success as well. It was pretty eye-opening, I think, for a lot of people to see the capabilities that the aircraft brings, even in a 2A configuration.

We were able to do some pretty impressive things in this event, which highlighted things to come as well, notably with the radar.

AAW 2 is an air-to-air event defending high value ground based MAGTF assets from a threat strike.

Major Greenwood at MAWTS-1. Credit: SLD
Major Greenwood at MAWTS-1. Credit: SLD

The F-35s integrated with F-18s and a notional Patriot battery against adversaries, which included, F-18s, F-5s, AV-8s, EA-6Bs, B-1Bs.

The fidelity of the radar is amazing.

That sensor is obviously well beyond anything that we have in our F-18s.

We can see things that the Hornets weren’t able to see, and then right now, passing information via voice only to the F-18s in two-day 2A aircraft.

We will have the data link capability in the next block of software which is coming shortly.

And more generally, as the aircraft enters service it will become a key factor in keying up other assets, such as the F-18s to provide additional firepower identified by the F-35 sensors.

Question: And the DAS 360 degree sensor system along with the radar all by themselves presents new capabilities for you as well?

Major Greenwood:

They do in terms of our ability to see things we could not see before and they give us significant advantages in the battlespace.

Question: You already have a training and tactics manual, how is that progressing?

Major Greenwood:

We do have a basic manual, but the approach is in some ways along an Air Force Model whereby we develop the qualifications for an instructor pilot as the basic focus.

Question: What is your relationship with the other services in rolling out the F-35?

Major Greenwood:

We have an habitual relationship with the USAF 422 Squadron which is their test and evaluation squadron at Nellis as well as with their 31st Squadron at Edwards AFB which is a test and evaluation squadron as well.

And through them we see other units as well who are engaged in preparing for the integration of the airplane into their services.

The Navy interface is pretty small as we deal primarily with one officer from Top Gun.

They are just getting their feet wet.

They have been involved in the process throughout.

U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning II aircraft and F-18 Hornets assigned to Naval Air Station Pensacola fly over the northwest coast of Florida May 15, 2013.  Credit: USAF
U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning II aircraft and F-18 Hornets assigned to Naval Air Station Pensacola fly over the northwest coast of Florida May 15, 2013. Credit: USAF

Question: There is a unique role for the USMC as the first service to operate the aircraft, but obviously working with the USAF is important as well for the USMC. Could you describe this relationship?

Major Greenwood:

It is an important one.

Because we are going first, there is obviously a keen interest in what we are doing here at Yuma.

But we are working closely with the other services as they prepare to operate the aircraft.

The USAF is especially important in this regard.

But obviously, the USMC is in a unique position here.

And as we prepare for IOC, we are shifting from a requirements role to a training role with regard to the aircraft.

The working relationship with VMFA-121 is obviously central.

They’re starting their IOC training through the T&R progression next month.

And we will obviously be involved in that process, and with the ultimate goal being to get them to IOC, and then eventually to have students coming through WTI.

Question: What weapons will the Marines be operating with the IOC aircraft?

Major Greenwood:

In a Block 2 aircraft, we will be able to carry two AIM-120s and either two GBU-32 JDAMs or two GBU-12 laser guided bombs internally.

External load outs will start with the block 3-F configuration.

All of the combat systems will be functional and obviously will evolve over time in the software upgrades.

Question: It must be exciting for you working on the initial operational tactics and training with a new generation aircraft?

Major Greenwood:

It’s always exciting, I think, to be at the tip of the spear, if you will, which is kind of where the Marine Corps likes to operate anyway.

It is a unique opportunity and a very good opportunity for us.

For the perspective of VMF-121 see the following: