MAG-11 History


Although commissioned at Quantico, VA, on Aug. 1, 1941, as the Marine Corps' first aircraft group, elements of the organization that would eventually support its mission actually existed as early as Dec. 1, 1921. Together, these ancestral units were collectively designated as Aircraft Squadron, East Coast Expeditionary Force.

Subsequent to the beginning of World War II, Marine Aircraft Group 11 (MAG-11) was comprised of six tactical squadrons, the lead elements of which departed Quantico, Va. for the West Coast of the United States in December 1941. Upon arrival, MAG-11 became the Air-Defense Group for the San Diego, California area. During this interim pre-deployment period, MAG-11 served as the nucleus of four new air groups destined for combat action in the Pacific. MAG-11 embarked for the South Pacific on October 15, 1942. Arriving at Spititu Santo, New Hebrides Islands, the group launched offensive actions against enemy strongholds, air power, and shipping.

During World War II, MAG-11 participated in combat action during such notable and historical campaigns as the Solomon Islands, New Britain, Palau, Central Pacific Area, and the Philippine Islands. At the close of World War II, on Sept. 2, 1945, MAG-11 was based on the island of Peleliu where it remained until January 1946.

Temporarily assigned to the San Diego area upon its return to the United States, MAG-11 joined the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW) at Cherry Point, N.C. in March 1946 and remained organic to that Wing until August 1953, when it relocated from Auxiliary Landing Field, Edenton, N.C. to U. S. Naval Station, Atsugi, Japan. In Japan, elements of MAG-11 actively participated in air operations against North Korean and Chinese Communist forces.

From August 1958 until January 1959, MAG-11 deployed to Taiwan in support of the Nationalist Chinese Air Defense, returning again in 1961 and 1963 in support of maneuvers in that area. In April 1965, MAG-11 deployed to Da Nang, Vietnam, in support of counter-insurgency operations. Within 69 hours, after its departure from Japan, group element launched the first attack against communist (Viet Cong) forces.

During the period from April 1965 to February 1971, MAG-11 was comprised of 17 squadrons: Marine Fighter (All Weather) 232, Marine Fighter (All Weather) 235, Marine Fighter (All Weather) 312, Marine Fighter Attack 115, Marine Fighter Attack 122, Marine Fighter Attack 314, Marine Fighter Attack 323, Marine Fighter Attack 334, Marine Fighter Attack 513, Marine Fighter Attack 531, Marine Fighter Attack 542, Marine Attack (All Weather) 225, Marine Attack (All Weather) 242, Marine Attack 311, Marine Observation 2, Marine Composite Reconnaissance 1, and Headquarters and Maintenance 11.

The Group's mission in combat was carried out primarily by the F-8 Crusader, the F-4 Phantom II, the A-6 Intruder, and the A-4 Skyhawk. Other aircraft assigned were photographic reconnaissance versions of the crusader and the phantom, the TA-4F, TF-9J, EF-10B, EA-6A, OV-10, C-117 and KC-130. Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 11 (the Marine Corps' oldest squadron) and Marine Air Base Squadron 11 supported MAG-11 and attached aircraft squadrons during this period.

During this phase of MAG-11's combat history, the following types of missions were assigned and carried out: close air and direct support; air defense intercept; visual, photographic and electronic reconnaissance; electronic countermeasures; airborne tactical air control; illumination and combat logistical support for air/ground elements of the allied forces.

In May 1971, MAG-11 relocated from Vietnam, reporting to the commanding general, 3rd MAW at Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, Santa Ana, Calif. on Jun. 10, 1971. During November 1979, VMFA-323 and VMFA-531 deployed aboard the USS Coral Sea. This was the first time in Naval Aviation History that the Marine Corps provided all of the fighter support for a Navy carrier and the first time since World War II that two Marine Fighter squadrons were deployed aboard a Pacific Fleet Carrier.

In July 1982, MAG-11's fighter squadrons began transitioning from the F-4 Phantom II to the Marine Corps' newest tactical jet, the F/A-18 Hornet. On Nov. 24, 1982, the F-4N officially retired from active duty Marine service when VMFA-531 transferred its last Phantom to the Naval Weapons Center. VMFA-314 took delivery of the first fleet F/A-18A on Dec. 15, 1982. Acceptance of the F/A-18A Hornet was completed on Aug. 28, 1983 when the twelfth hornet was accepted by VMFA-531. In June 1983, MAG-11 established another first when pilots from VMFA-323, VMFA-531, and VMFA-314 conducted carrier qualifications aboard the USS Kitty Hawk.

In October 1985 two MAG-11 F/A-18 squadrons, VMFA-314 and VMFA-323, deployed to the Mediterranean aboard the USS Coral Sea and participated in the April 15, 1986, air strike against Libya.

In early August 1990 MAG-11 began providing squadrons to MAG-70 for the Air Combat Element (ACE) of 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (7th MEB) for deployment to the Middle East as part of Operation Desert Shield. With the establishment of I MEF and 3rd MAW in theater on Sept. 3, 1990, MAG-11 was transferred from MCAS El Toro to Bahrain and assumed operational control of all USMC F/A-18, A-6E, EA-6B, and C-130 aircraft in Southwest Asia. Prior to commencement of hostilities, MAG-11 grew to become the largest Marine Fixed Wing Air Group in history with squadrons from all four Marine Aircraft Wings. When the United Nation's January 15 deadline passed, five months of extensive planning, preparation, and training were put to the test. The order to execute Desert Storm was received and extensive combat operations commenced. Initial strikes were flown deep into Iraq with follow on operations designed to prepare the battlefield for the attack by Marine Ground Forces. When the ground war began, MAG-11 flew over 7,500 combat sorties and 16,400 hours, without loss of life or aircraft. The 13 squadrons of the Corps' oldest and finest expended over 17 million pounds of ordnance during combat operations.

During the period of 1 January through 31 March 2003, MAG-11 prepared, deployed, and executed combat operations in support of Operation Southern Watch (OSW) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). With the establishment of I MEF and 3d MAW in theater, MAG-11 was transferred from MCAS Miramar to Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait and assumed control of all USMC F/A-18, and C-130 aircraft in Southwest Asia.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, MAG-11 aircraft flew extensive 24 hour combat operations.  MAG-11 aviators flew through Anti Aircraft Artillery, Surface Air Missiles, and dust storms to drop over three million pounds of ordnance on targets inside Iraq in support of Marine, Army, and British ground forces. MAG-11 flew over 4,000 combat sorties and 10,000 flight hours, without loss of life or aircraft. The eight squadrons of the Corps' oldest and finest expended close to four million pounds of ordnance during combat operations. The combined efforts of this force led to the destruction of eight Iraqi Republican Guard and Army Divisions, the inevitable liberation of the Iraqi people from a tyrannical regime, and validated once again that the USMC Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) continues to be an extremely potent fighting force.

In June of 2019 MAG-11 Squadrons commenced their transition from the F/A-18 to the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.  This transition began with VMFA-314, which received the Marine Corps first F-35 carrier variant on January 21, 2020.

On August 1, 2021 MAG-11 celebrated its 80th Anniversary of distinguished service.

MAG-11 is currently composed of two F/A-18C squadrons, one F-35C squadron, one fleet replacement squadron, one KC-130 tactical aerial refueling squadron, one Marine Wing Support Squadron and one Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron. The flying squadrons of MAG-11 fly over 42,000 hours annually. The primary mission of MAG-11 is to provide air support to MAGTF commanders.

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3rd Marine Aircraft Wing