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HMLA-267 demonstrates offensive air support during distributed maritime operations


As hostile forces seized nearby islands, isolating western portions of the III Marine Expeditionary Force Area of Responsibility, they cut off vital sea lines of communication to the east. In response, during the hours of darkness, “STINGER 45” and “STINGER 46” departed a small island airfield and struck enemy outposts on northern and southern islands to reduce enemy command and control capability as well as eliminate their will to fight. Simultaneously, operations dispatched three Stinger flights to engage multiple ground vehicles, fast attack crafts, command and control nodes and enemy personnel.

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HMLA 267 demonstrates offensive air support during distributed maritime operations U.S. Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267 prepare to land at a forward arming and refueling point during a mission rehearsal exercise (MRX) at Ie Shima training facility, Okinawa, Japan, April 16, 2021. The MRX served as a culminating event for HMLA-267 as they near the end of their time in Okinawa as part of the Unit Deployment Program (Picture source: U.S. Marine Corps)


Close Air Support, escort and combat assault transport missions continued for the Stingers of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267 as they inserted elements of 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company onto an expeditionary forward base. Utilizing AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom aircraft, the Stingers escorted Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 while they inserted six additional waves of Marines. HMLA-267 quickly turned their attention to providing CAS and eliminated enemy bunkers and equipment. Adversary mechanized infantry and anti-air capabilities were also destroyed, enabling Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations to take hold for follow-on missions.

This simulated scenario played out in the middle of April during a Mission Rehearsal Exercise on and around the island of Okinawa, Japan. The training demonstrated the HMLA’s capability to support EABO operations in a distributed maritime environment. The MRX also served as a culmination of HMLA-267’s time on Okinawa while attached to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing as the Unit Deployment Program HMLA squadron.

The Indo-Pacific theatre presents unique challenges to the defense of the United States and our partners and allies in the region. The mission of an HMLA facilitates an important skill-set within the Air Combat Element that plays a critical combat assault support role for the Marine Air Ground Task Force. This training demonstrated that skill-set when applied to the EABO construct.

“Exercises like this are important because it allows us to practice maritime interdiction operations utilizing naval handoffs and other communications waveforms for target dissemination,” said Capt. William DeGraff, an AH-1Z Viper pilot. “The unique training locations offered here on Okinawa are vital to developing EABO concepts and HMLA operations from austere environments.”

The MRX also featured maritime interdiction and Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel training. The main objective of this training was to recover aircraft personnel and intercept a simulated adversary amphibious assault. During one day of the exercise, HMLA-267 departed Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to refuel and arm with small arms rounds and inert Hellfire missiles at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point. Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 operated this FARP from an austere airstrip on Ie Shima Island. After arming and refueling, the squadron conducted a mission to destroy an enemy stronghold/command and control center at Irisuna Island approximately 40 miles off the coast of Okinawa.

“This iteration of training was vital to improving our capabilities to ensure that when our partners and allies need us we will continue to be able to answer the call,” said Lt. Col. Robert Bunn, Commanding Officer of HMLA-267. “This also enabled the HMLA to demonstrate that we are a relevant “fight now” force, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to respond to crises and contingencies throughout the Indo-Pacific for the MAW and III MEF, “Anytime, Anywhere”.”

HMLA-267 flew additional missions during the MRX including a CAS exercise in support of 5th ANGLICO with F/A-18C Hornet aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. VMFA-232 is a UDP squadron attached to Marine Aircraft Group 12 that supported concurrent missions from Kadena Air Base during the MRX.

Exercises like this demonstrate the capability of the entire MAW and showcase the EABO capabilities provided by the ACE in the Indo-Pacific theatre. 1st MAW and III MEF are committed to maintaining a high state of readiness and is ready to “Fight Now” in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

HMLA-267 will depart 1st MAW at the end of April and will be replaced by HMLA-169 as the next UDP squadron. Both squadrons share Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton as their home station under 3rd MAW.