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Yuma Marine Corps Air Station (U.S. Marine Corps)

Yuma Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS Yuma) is the busiest air station in the Marine Corps and the third busiest in the Naval service. The air station currently hosts 100 units from U.S. and NATO forces each year, totaling 600 aircraft and 14,000 personnel. MCAS Yuma retains bragging rights as “one of the Marine Corps’ premiere aviation training bases,” with access to 2.8 million acres of bombing and aviation training ranges in southwestern Arizona and southeastern California.

Harrier aircraft

Its primary mission is to support aerial weapons training for the Atlantic and Pacific Fleet Marine Forces and Navy, and to serve as a base of operations for Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1, and Third MAW (Marine Aircraft Wing) units, to include Marine Aircraft Group-13.

It is also one of the largest single contributors to the economy of Yuma County. Its Yuma International Airport (YUM) is a commercial service airport at a shared-use airfield with Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma. YUM is owned by the County of Yuma, and operated by the Yuma County Airport Authority, Inc. (YCAA).

The Yuma Training Range Complex (YTRC) includes approximately 5,000 square miles of airspace in the western segment of the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range designated for military use in Arizona. The Complex is the only location available to and operated by the Marine Corps where the primary mission is to provide full spectrum support for Marine Corps tactical aviation training. MCAS Yuma supports 80 percent of the Corps' air-to-ground aviation training. Each year, the air station hosts numerous units and aircraft from U.S. and NATO forces. The Yuma Training Range Complex (YTRC) is a military aviation training facility composed of airspace and lands located in southwestern Arizona and southeastern California.

Evolution of MCAS Yuma

The MCAS Yuma’s mission changed in 1987 as the focus shifted from training to permanently hosting combat-ready squadrons. That year, Marine Aircraft Group 13 (MAG-13), transferred from MCAS El Toro and replaced MCCRTG-10 as Yuma’s principal operational organization. MAG-13 was a deployable tactical air combat unit, comprising VMA-513, already based at Yuma, and three other Marine Attack Squadrons (VMA-211, -214, and - 311) from El Toro, the last of which completed the move to MCAS Yuma in 1988. The two Marine Attack Training Squadrons then stationed at Yuma, VMAT-101 and VMAT-102, were transferred to MCAS El Toro and deactivated, respectively. Headquarters & Maintenance Squadron (H&MS) 10 was also deactivated, replaced by H&MS-13 from El Toro. Tenant units that remained at MCAS Yuma through the changeover included MAWTS-1, MACS-7, and 2nd LAAM Battalion. By the end of 1989, when MCAS completed its two-year tactical air (“TacAir”) transition, MAG-13 had grown to a combined force of 80 next-generation AV-8B Harriers, replacing the venerable A4-M Skyhawks, the Marine Corps’ principal attack fighter jet since the late 1970s.

Despite MCAS Yuma’s transition to front line tactical air base, training activities for deployed squadrons continued, as they have to the present. In late 1990, virtually every Marine Corps fixed wing squadron that ultimately deployed for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm trained at the base. All four of the MAG-13 Harrier squadrons participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and played a continual support role in Iraq until returning to MCAS Yuma for further deployment training in 2008. Throughout the post-Cold War era, the air station has remained the Marine Corps’ busiest aviation base.