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II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)

Photo by Cpl. Ruben D. Calderon

VMA-214 makes aviation munitions history aboard Peleliu

11 Nov 2005 | Gunnery Sgt. Robert K. Blankenship 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

It was not the first time that an AV-8B Harrier launched off of the flight deck of an amphibious ship but, it was the first time that Fleet Harriers did it carrying Joint Direct Attack Munitions. 

JDAMs are special bombs that use global positioning and satellite technology to guide the bomb toward its target, according to Maj. John Rahe, AV-8B Harrier detachment officer-in-charge, Marine Attack Squadron 214 "Black Sheep," Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. This technology allows the bombs to hit their target regardless of weather conditions or light levels, said Rahe.

In August, the Black Sheep also made history by becoming the first fleet squadron to drop the JDAMs from a Harrier after the aircraft was modified with a new avionics suite. 

Rahe and a small detachment of Black Sheep are attached to Marine Medium Helicopter 166 (Reinforced), MCAS Miramar San Diego, which is a part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Pendleton, Calif. They have been conducting training exercises aboard the U.S.S. Peleliu along with MEU Service Support Group 11, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment and the 11th MEU Command Element in preparation for their upcoming deployment this winter.

According to Rahe, the Marines have been training with the new system, but this is the first time ever that JDAM’s have been deployed off of an amphibious assault ship.

According to Aviation Ordnance Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Owens from Dothan, Ala., the pilots were not the only ones making history. This was the first time aviation ordnance sailors had ever built the bombs on board an amphibious ship.

The JDAMs are a great addition to the 11th MEU's amphibious arsenal, said Rahe.  Capt. Mike Slatt, Harrier pilot and safety officer for the detachment, agreed with Rahe and added that another benefit to the new capability is the safety that it will afford pilots. According to Slatt, pilots can drop the bombs, leave the area and let the technology do the rest. This will greatly reduce the possibility of aircraft getting shot down by enemy fire, and will minimize collateral damage on the ground, he said.

"We employed three 1000 pound JDAMs from the Peleliu and all three tracked to the target perfectly," said Slatt. "So far we are hitting targets with pin point accuracy," said Capt. Derek Bibby, Harrier pilot and quality assurance officer for the detachment. "The bombs are going to hit anywhere we tell them to."

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Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

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