Marine Fighter Training Squadron-401 [VMFT-401]
Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401) was activated on 18 March 1986 at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Arizona. Organized under the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing of the Marine Corps Reserve, this new squadron was assigned the mission of providing instruction to active and Reserve Fleet Marine Forces and Fleet squadrons through dissimilar adversarial aerial combat tactics. In it first year of existence, the Squadron was without aircraft but laid the logistical foundation for the arrival of 13 Israeli-built F-21A "KFIRs" as well as and the administrative groundwork for its full compliment of personnel.
In March 1987, contractual agreements with Israeli Aircraft Industries were signed setting forth the delivery and maintenance schedules for the long awaited aircraft. On 25 June 1987, the first five aircraft, flown by VMFT-401 pilots, arrived in Yuma. On 29 June 1987, the "SNIPERS" published their first flight schedule and commenced local flight operations.
The F-21A KFIR was officially inducted into Marine Corps service during an Inauguration Ceremony on 13 August 1987. Shortly thereafter, the "DEATH ANGELS" of VMFA-235 became the first recipient of the newly designated Marine Adversaries' support. Within the first year of operation, VMFT-401 flew over 4000 accident free sorties in support of 59 different units while participating in 16 major exercises. Accomplishments made during this period earned the squadron a Meritorious Unit commendation from the Secretary of the Navy.
In 1988, the Squadron deployed to Hill AFB in support of Exercise Gallant Eagle, Nellis AFB in support of the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School, NAS Miramar to attend the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN), NAS Fallon in support of Exercise Highroller, as well as supporting the semiannual Weapons Tactics Instructor Course.
During 1989, VMFT-401 transitioned from the Israeli-built KFIR to the U.S. Air Force F-5E Tiger II and continued the aggressor role. This marked the end of U.S. military usage of foreign aircraft for aggressor training. The first F-5Es arrived from Nellis AFB on 13 April 1989 with in-deph training commencing almost immediately. After just two months, the squadron flew its first tactical sortie in the F-5.
In 1990 the "SNIPERS" deployed to MCAS Beaufort, MCAS Cherry Point, and participated in numerous Combined Arms Exercises and multi-unit MCCRES evaluations. The squadron's versatility and utility was widely recognized during this time frame in conjunction with fleet unit requirements in preparation for the pending conflict in the Persian Gulf. By the end of 1990 and into 1991 the U.S. was at war with Iraq and the fruits of VMFT-401's labor was recognized as U.S. pilots handily defeated Iraq's Air Force.
For the period June 92-July 93 this unit was awarded the "Pete Ross" Safety Award in recognition of it's safety record while executing such a demanding mission. Exercise support for CAG-11, FLEETEX 2-94, WTI, Ice Storm and Scorpion Wind were major events for 1994. The "Snipers" continued their record of accomplishments and by 1995 had accumulated over 35,000 Mishap-Free sorties and 31,000 Mishap-Free flight hours. In 1995 VMFT-401 supported various units and deployed to Key West, Fl., MCAS Beaufort, Kingsley Field, OR., and NAS Whidbey Island, WA.
In 1996, during VMFT-401's tenth year of operation, the "SNIPERS" continued to provide dissimilar air-to-air combat training and aggressor support to numerous USMC/USN/USAF aviation and ground units. VMFT-401 met mission requirements while maintaining an aircraft mission capable rate of 74%.
VMFT-401 is the Marine Corps' only "Adversary" Squadron. Currently located at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Arizona, this small unit is the flight time leader of the Marine Reserves. Its mission it to provide instruction to Active and Reserve Fleet Marine Forces and Fleet squadrons through dissimilar adversary combat tactics.
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