Fact Check: Video Shows US Training Exercises NOT Russian War In Ukraine

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: Video Shows US Training Exercises NOT Russian War In Ukraine Yuma Arizona

Does this video show footage of the Russian war in Ukraine? No, that's not true: This is 2016 footage of U.S. Marine Corps training that took place in the desert near Yuma, Arizona, close to the Mexican border.

The mislabeled video was posted on Facebook by "MIL Show" on March 7, 2022. It was captioned:

πŸ”΄ Russian War In Ukraine - RussianFrogfoot Eats Anti-Air Missile β€’ Keeps Flying

This is how the post appeared on Facebook at the time of writing:


(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Mar 10 16:11:14 2022 UTC)

Following the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, social media was plagued with inauthentic or mislabeled video footage of real and simulated war scenes passed off as current footage of the conflict in Ukraine. This video showing a desert landscape and a fake town is yet another example. This was 2016 Marine Corps training in the United States, not war footage from Ukraine in 2022.

Lead Stories used a still frame from the video to conduct a reverse image search with several search engines. While Google, TinEye and Yandex did not turn up a match, Microsoft Bing correctly identified a very close match -- a well-labeled photo on dvidshub.net, which is an image and video repository maintained by the U.S. Department of Defense. The vehicles parked on the edge of the training area in both the video and the still images on dvidshub.net match in type and placement, enough that the identification on the still photo can be reasonably inferred to be the same day, March 31, 2016. The photo caption reads:

Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary Ford
Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1

A U.S. Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron one (MAWTS-1) fires rockets during an Offensive Air Support exercise at Yodaville, near Yuma, Ariz., March 31, 2016. The Offensive Air Support exercise was conducted during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI 2-16). WTI is a seven week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary M. Ford, MAWTS-1 COMCAM/ Released)

The photograph is shown below to compare with the mislabeled still frame from the video.


(Image source: Lead Stories composite comparison image from dvidshub.net and Facebook screenshots taken on Thu Mar 10 16:35:14 2022 UTC)

"Yodaville" is an urban target complex (UTC), described in a user-submitted entry on the website virtualglobetrotting.com:

It was designed as an urban close air support (CAS) target complex built to provide a realistic simulation of urban or built up areas for Marine aviation to train.
The UTC has 178 buildings, 131 personnel targets, 31 vehicle targets and is equipped with streetlights. There are four Tactical Air Control Party sites around the periphery/


(Image source: screenshot from virtualglobetrotting.com embedded Google Map taken on Thu Mar 10 17:07:53 2022 UTC)

In a March 26, 2009, article in smithsonianmag.com titled, "Welcome to Yodaville Population: Zero. Threat level: High," the Weapons and Tactics Instructors course was described this way:

Throughout the day--and deep into the night--a variety of rotary and fixed wing aircraft, including F-15 Eagles, B-1B Lancers, the latest iteration of the UH-1 helicopter (the 'Yankee'), even a low flying B-52, pulverized targets with guns, rockets, laser- and GPS-guided bombs, and TOW anti-tank missiles. The idea of WTI is to teach participants the most advanced tactics for close air support and other missions, so they can return to their units and teach others.

'The top guys from each squadron get selected to go,' says Glover, a Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet weapon systems officer who served a tour as a forward air controller in Afghanistan in 2002. 'This is the "graduate level" course in Marine aviation, one that brings the real world of joint operations--hence all the non-Marine Corps assets like the A-10s and B-1s--into the fray, and one that really mimics what really goes on in an actual battlespace.'

Other Lead Stories fact checks related to the 2022 Russia-Ukraine conflict can be found here.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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