Much like the Air Force Weapons School and the Navy’s Top Gun Fighter Weapons School, the United States Marine Corps has developed a training program designed to produce subject matter experts in the area of cross-domain war-fighting. The Weapons and Tactics Instructor course, also known as WTI, is held bi-annually at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma in the southwest corner of Arizona.

During WTI, students receive in-depth, detailed training, which is employed and practiced during exercises on the many nearby ranges in Arizona and California. The syllabus includes mission planning and briefing, TTPs, and ultimately, the live employment of weapons in multiple scenarios.

In addition, WTI provides instruction and training stressing integrated air-to-air and air-to-ground combat operations. Intended for experienced Marines, the WTI course is an advanced, graduate-level course for select fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and tilt-rotor pilots and enlisted aircrew from the Marine Corps aviation community.

A USMC CH-53E taxis on the ramp at MCAS Yuma, Arizona.Course candidates also include officers and enlisted Marines from artillery, forward air controllers, aviation ground support, air traffic control, as well as command and control assets organic to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF).

The intent is to produce subject-matter experts—qualified and experienced instructors who can disseminate weapons and tactics training and information as it relates to aviation within each Marine Corps unit. The WTI course was developed from conventional and special weapons delivery training that was originally provided to Marine Corps attack squadrons by Special Weapons Training Units during the 1950s.

As the tasking of these units grew, they were redesignated Marine Air Weapons Training Units (MAWTUs), and by 1977, the WTI course had been developed and was offered by the two MAWTUs at Cherry Point, North Carolina and El Toro, California. Today’s course is the result of the consolidation of the WTI courses in 1977. It is held twice each year, exclusively at MCAS Yuma, and produces over 300 graduates annually.

It all starts with MAWTS-1

Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) was commissioned on 1 June, 1978, and has been based at MCAS Yuma since inception. MAWTS-1 is responsible for running WTI, creating and updating the training syllabi, and organizing and managing the training exercises. Outside of WTI, MAWTS-1 instructors travel approximately 90 days per year during multiple fleet support windows.