The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW) is the major west coast aviation unit of the United States Marine Corps. It is headquartered at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California and provides the aviation combat element for the I Marine Expeditionary Force. The wing is made up of a headquarters squadron, four flying groups, an aviation command and control group and an aviation engineering group.
Units of 3rd MAW are located in the western United States at the following bases:
The Wing's combat history began with the World War II deployment of a bomber squadron on December 3, 1943. A little more than a year later, the Wing deployed a night fighter squadron in support of the war effort.
In early April 1944, the wing turned over its training duties and assigned units to the 9th Marine Aircraft Wing and on April 21, 1944 boarded three carriers for a voyage to Hawaii and arrived May 8, where it assumed the functions of Marine Air, Hawaii Area (MAHA)
When the Japanese surrendered, 3rd MAW was decommissioned on December 31, 1945 at Marine Corps Air Station Ewa and its personnel were assigned to other units. The Wing also played an important, but behind-the-scenes, role during the war by training Marine pilots and support personnel for combat duty overseas.
In 1952, as the Marine Corps again fought in the Far East, the Wing was reactivated at MCAS Cherry Point for the Korean War. The main portion of the wing began moving to the new Marine Corps Air Station Miami, the Marine Corps' first "flying field."
In September 1955, the Wing left MCAS Miami for Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California. 3rd MAW was rebuilt again, with the addition of Marine Aircraft Group 15, followed by Marine Aircraft Group 36 on September 5, 1955, with its helicopter squadrons at the nearby Marine Corps Air Facility Santa Ana, later renamed Marine Corps Air Station Tustin.
Wing squadrons were detached and deployed to Vietnam as combat action in Southeast Asia flared. At the end of the Vietnam War several units were brought back to the United States and deactivated or redesignated, creating the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing as it is constituted today.
The Wing saw action again as part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), conducting operations in Iraq and Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. It deployed over 40 squadrons of aircraft, flew over 18,000 sorties while operating from 6airfields throughout the theater. After the end of hostilities, 3d MAW aircraft provided support in Operation Provide Comfort and Operation Southern Watch over Iraq. The wing was once more called into service in Somalia for Operation Restore Hope. In 1999, the 3rd MAW relocated to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.
In the fall of 2002, the Wing began deploying to Kuwait to prepare for combat operations in Iraq. Ultimately the wing moved 435 aircraft and 15,451 personnel to Southwest Asia prior to the attack marking the first time the entire wing had deployed since the Gulf War and the largest since the Vietnam War. Their two primary bases in Kuwait were Ali Al Salem Air Base and Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base while Wing ground units also established 15 Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) or Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs) during march north. During the invasion, 3rd MAW expended over 6 million pounds of ordinance including over 2,300 general purpose bombs and 2,200 precision guided munitions.
Fixed wing aircraft
Rotary wing aircraft