It’s Friday, ladies and gentlemen. And by now you know very well what that means… It’s time for some afterburner! This week we’re actually going to take a look at a nice pair of General Electric F404 engines going to work, brought to you courtesy of the United States Marine Corps.
Today we celebrate Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, known as the Fighting Bengals. The Fighting Wildcats, as they were first known, were established on May 1, 1942 as VMF-224, which makes today their 73rd birthday. The squadron boasts a storied past, lending their support to decisive American campaigns in the Pacific theater during World War II and later in Vietnam.
They were the first Marine Corps unit to field the Douglas (later McDonnell-Douglas) A-4D Skyhawk, and they operated the “Scooter” for a decade before switching to the Grumman A-6 Intruder in late 1966. The squadron picked up the All-Weather (AW) designation at the same time, and that capability has stuck with them for the last 40 years.
The Fighting Bengals later made a large impact (pun intended) during Operation Desert Storm, offering up a hefty 2.3 million pounds of ordnance against Iraqi defenses in just a matter of weeks.
By 1992 the squadron was back home at MCAS Cherry Point, but soon divested themselves of their trusty Grumman steed in favor of some Hornets and in the process moved one state south to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. Along with the F/A-18D came the Fighter mission, and VMA(AW)-224 picked up the letter F and to this day is designated VMFA(AW)-224.
Several of the unit’s Hornets are equipped with the Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS) in the nose of the aircraft, as can be seen in the above photo. Replacing the 20mm Vulcan cannon that comes standard on most Hornets, the ATARS has both visible light and infrared sensors for detailed high-resolution digital imagery, and can transmit the information to the appropriate ground station for real-time SA.
At the other end of the jet is a pair of General Electric F404 afterburning (of course!) turbofans, and with their powers combined give the Hornet over 35,000 pounds of thrust in full burner, which is exactly where we find this week’s reheat sampling.
All this capability gives the Fighting Bengals the capacity to fulfill their mission of supporting Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) operations while conducting day or night missions, in all sorts of weather. It’s not a job for the faint of heart – nor is any job in the fighter community – but the Bengals have proven time and again they are up for the challenge.
We’d like to wish the Fighting Bengals a very Happy Birthday, and Burner Friday!