Dawn Blitz is a multi-national exercise that takes place every other year, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and in the waters of the Pacific Ocean offshore from the base. This year’s exercise took place in the early weeks of September and participating was the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, an Army unit from New Zealand, Japanese Naval Vessels with their air assets, and for the first time, Mexican Naval vessels and air assets, along with a company of Mexican Naval Infantry (Marines).
The exercise also bring’s many observers from other countries each year, especially from our South American allies such as Columbia, Chile and Peru.
The forces practice naval combat and familiarizing each other with the different countries capabilities, and then on land, the troops will use the various ranges, such a combat towns, small arms, and others.
The US Marines and Navy use their well known inventory of aircraft, from MV-22 “Ospreys”, SH & MH-60’s “Sea Hawks” and CH-53 “Super Sea Stallions”, while the Japanese bring their CH-47 “Chinooks” & SH-60 “Romeos”. In 2013, the Japanese also had onboard their ship, an Apache “AH-64DJP”, but it was not seen this time.
The first time participant, Mexico brought along a Russian-made Mi-17 “HIP”, and a Eurocopter AS565 Panther.
On the 3 days that I spent with the exercise, I flew onboard a US Marine MV-22 out to the USS Boxer for a media meeting with the “Flag” officers of the exercise, to explain the mission of this exercise. I won’t bore you with the facts, but right now the Pentagon is focusing on issues in the Yellow and east China Seas, and the defense of our allies in that region. Some believe that Communist China is playing a game to get our attention on this region, when their real focus is really on invading Taiwan, but that’s for another story, some other day.
After that we meeting, I reboarded the “Osprey”, and flew to the Japanese Self Defense Force ship, the “Hyuga”, a submarine destroyer officially, but really an small carrier that can carry troops and helicopters, much like the “Boxer”. This was my second time onboard this ship, and was able to observe their various helicopters flying to and from her flight deck. After the demonstration, I was flown back to shore for the end of the day.
After watching amphibious landings on the beaches of camp Pendleton of the Mexican Naval Infantry in their assault boats, and the New Zealanders, making their landing in US Marine Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV’s), I could hear a strange thumping of helicopter blades coming from the north, but it’s sound was different from any US type helo. Suddenly, the Mi-17 and the Panther came into view as the Mexican Navy was flying troops inland from their two ships out to sea.
The very next day, I found myself waiting for the arrival of those two helicopters, as they would transport me out to the Mexican naval vessels, the ARM Revolucion and the ARM Usumacinta. Now I will say this, I have flown on UH-1’s CH-46’s, CH-53’s, and MV-22’s, and there is always a little bit of shaking going on, but when I flew in the “HIP’, it was more of a bouncing type of flight, just a constant up and down bounce. The Mexican military personnel that I met that day were extremely professional, and a pleasure to meet and greet, and to see their ships and aircraft.
On the way, back to shore, the pilot of “HIP” gave me the opportunity to be able to take images of the ships at sea, but also some air to air of the “Panther”, flying along side.