By Lance Cpl. Ashley Phillips, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort
The Airborne Tactical Advantage Company visited Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to train with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, April 13, 2017. The ATAC is a contracted company that provides adversary air training. ATAC is scheduled to train with VMFAT-501 for the next two weeks.
“ATAC specializes in providing a professional, solid, adversary air presentation,” said James Reed, the director of East Coast operations with ATAC and a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot. “While we are here we have a very fast paced schedule with three training events per day.”
According to their website, ATAC is the largest outsourced civilian, tactical airborne training organization. They are also the only civilian organization approved to train at the Navy’s Top Gun school.
“The biggest advantage to using ATAC is the cost,” said Reed. “It takes about one fourth of the cost to fly our four aircraft here to MCAS Beaufort compared to the cost of flying F/A-18 or F-35B aircraft. The flight cost per hour is significantly less.”
ATAC is flying with four MK-58 Hawker Hunter aircraft, four pilots, and a team of six maintainers to support the rigorous schedule. All of the cadre and maintainers are experienced prior service members.
“We are fortunate to be able to be highly selective with who we hire,” said Reed. “All of our pilots are experienced and recent fighter attack pilots. Our newest member has over 4,000 hours of experienced and about 80 percent of our cadre is Weapons Training Instructor, Top Gun or Weapons School trained. Our maintainers know about every aspect of our aircraft.”
VMFAT-501 sets up, plans and organizes all of the training and logistics to conduct the training they need. They have pilots at various levels of training and qualifications that will be working with ATAC. VMFAT-501 will dictate all of the training scenarios and ATAC will be providing the adversary presentation or ‘red air’.
“MCAS Beaufort was my first duty station actually,” said Reed. “I was stationed here with VMFA-312 from 1990 to 1993. It’s good to be back in Beaufort. I visited my old favorite restaurants and house. This I my second visit back after many years. ATAC comes to Beaufort a few times a year.”
MCAS Beaufort utilizes ATAC for their cost effective, professional adversary air presentation to ensure their pilots are trained and experienced with fighting other types of aircraft. VMFAT-501 will train for the two weeks ATAC is here in different training scenarios, sharpening their pilot’s skills and proficiency in anti-aircraft warfare to meet the needs of the Marine Corps mission when they eventually go to an operational squadron.
“This is a part of VMFAT-501’s regular training,” said Reed. “They outsource their adversary air so their students are experienced with other flight platforms….