Pilots evade, attack during missile simulation training

Base Info
A “smokey” surface-to-air missile speeds off toward incoming helicopters during training on Ie Shima April 12. Smokey SAMs allow aviators to practice and improve evasive maneuvers they must take if targeted by a SAM. Marines with HMM-262 (Reinforced) participated in the training. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Ian M. McMahon)
A “smokey” surface-to-air missile speeds off toward incoming helicopters during training on Ie Shima April 12. Smokey SAMs allow aviators to practice and improve evasive maneuvers they must take if targeted by a SAM. Marines with HMM-262 (Reinforced) participated in the training. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Ian M. McMahon)

Pilots evade, attack during missile simulation training

by: Lance Cpl. Ian McMahon | .
Okinawa Marine Staff | .
published: April 20, 2013

IE SHIMA, OKINAWA, Japan -- Marine pilots with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced) participated in surface-to-air missile simulation training on Ie Shima April 12.

The training allowed aviators from the squadron to practice and improve evasive maneuvers they would take if targeted by a SAM through the use of foam missiles known as “smokey SAMs.”

“When a SAM is launched, a pilot needs to know how to detect the threat and what reactions and countermeasures to take,” said Capt. Brett N. Bishop, naval aviation training operations, procedures and standardization officer for HMM-262 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “The smokey SAM mimics the heat signatures given off by real SAMs without the danger of an actual threat. They are nicknamed smokey SAM because of the amount of smoke they produce when fired.”

Prior to the start of the training, the pilots received a briefing on the exercise. This period of instruction gave pilots time to plan for any change of events and ensure the safety of all personnel and equipment.

Finally, after hours of preparation and emplacing the SAM launch team, the helicopters took flight toward Ie Shima.

Five CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, one UH-1Y Venom helicopter and one AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter made their way to Ie Shima. As they neared the island, Marines acting as the smokey SAM team launched their missiles, sending streaks of light and plumes of smoke toward the incoming aircraft.

“The helicopters use infrared sensors to detect the heat of the smokey SAM, so even if the pilots don’t see the launch, the aircraft senses it,” said Bishop. “After detection, it’s up to the pilots to react appropriately.”

As the CH-46Es dodged and egressed from the area, the UH-1Y and AH-1W flew in to begin simulated attack runs on the site.

“It is important for the launches to be as close to the real thing as possible,” said Sgt. Sayyanh Inthavongdy, a CH-46 helicopter airframe mechanic with the squadron who was on the smokey SAM team for the training. “In today’s and tomorrow’s battles, it’s possible to run into threats like these. The pilots need to know how to react.”

When the UH-1Y and AH-1W finished attacking, the CH-46Es returned to simulate off-loading Marines, completing the training.

“The realism of this training is incredible,” said Lance Cpl. Angie Pazmino, an aviation operations specialist with the squadron. “You get to see the full capabilities of the squadron during exercises like this.”

With all scenarios finished, the aircraft and crews returned to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma for their debriefings.

“We don’t get to do this training very often,” said Bishop. “It is very important to maintain these skills, which can help save the lives of the helicopter crew and its passengers. We were lucky to be able to participate in this exercise.”