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Marines from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, ensure the .50-caliber machine gun rounds are properly linked to prevent the weapon from jamming.

Photo by Cpl. Deanne Hurla

‘Flying Tigers’ sling lead to sharpen skills

8 Jan 2010 | Cpl. Deanne Hurla

Many Marines are proficient shooting an M2 .50-caliber machine gun on the ground, but Marines with Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 must be proficient shooting it out of a CH-53E “Super Stallion” helicopter, 300 feet above their target.

The main purpose of the flight is for the crew to maintain their flight hours with the weapon and train new Marines to shoot the weapons during flight, explained Cpl. William Rogers, a Super Stallion crew chief from HMH-361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

“The most important part is weapons safety and function checks,” said Roberts, who recently completed this training.

When Marines are in Iraq and Afghanistan they can become complacent because they are around the weapons constantly, he added. When they return from deployment it’s important to maintain familiarity with the weapons systems.

Marines fire a M3M GAU-21 .50-caliber machine gun from the tail of the aircraft and XM-218 .50-caliber machine gun from the side windows.

Shooting doesn’t affect the way a pilot flies, the only adjustments made during training flights are flying slower and at a lower altitude so the Marines can get better practice, said Capt. Karrie Brimhall, a CH-53 pilot with the “Flying Tigers”.

Pilots fly at an altitude of about 200 to 300 feet at an air speed of about 100 knots during the training.

Even when flying at low altitudes and slower air speeds there are still adjustments Marines need to make when shooting.

“The basic aiming principals depend on the side of the aircraft you’re shooting from,” said Rogers. “Left side you shoot left of the target and below it. Right side you shoot right of the target and high.”

These adjustments are made to adjust for forward airspeed and the aerodynamics of the round when shot from an aerial platform.

Knowing how to shoot from a moving helicopter and hit a target enables these Marines to provide extra support to Marines on the ground where ever they may be.


3rd Marine Aircraft Wing