Ahead of a US-led Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFX) on the Eastern seaboard of the United States, HMS ILLUSTRIOUS welcomed the very first embarkation of a US Marine Corps Bell/Boeing MV-22 Osprey onto the Royal Navy aircraft carrier today. It is the first time that an Osprey has embarked in a non-US vessel. The world’s first tilt-rotor aircraft, with a unique vertical takeoff and landing capability, is ideally suited to working from the deck of HMS ILLUSTRIOUS which is currently the UK’s high readiness strike carrier. With US Marine Corps Major Frank Conway piloting the aircraft, the visit gave the Osprey’s crew a unique opportunity to demonstrate the aircraft’s flexibility as well as the versatility of the UK’s primary Maritime Strike capability. Whilst there are no current plans to operate the MV-22 from UK Ships, close co-operation of this kind is vital should the need arise for ILLUSTRIOUS to conduct operations in a coalition environment.
Commander Henry Mitchell, the Commander (Air) in HMS ILLUSTRIOUS stated that “The Osprey visit gave the ship a unique opportunity to work with this impressive aircraft” further adding “We have been planning this for some time and although it is a departure from normal operations, the landing demonstrates the truly flexible nature of the UK Strike Carrier and the Osprey. It is hugely important to recognise the opportunities this type of event brings with it and how it reinforces our ability and willingness to operate with the widest possible range of aircraft anywhere in the world.’
The embarkation of the MV-22 Osprey is a pre-cursor to a major US led military exercise-JTFX 2007 in which Commodore Alan Richards, Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group, based in ILLUSTRIOUS will lead one of three carrier strike groups and will also embark up to 16 US Marine Corps AV8B Harrier jets as well as operate her own Sea King airborne surveillance and rescue helicopters. The exercise will test her across the broad spectrum of conflict, ranging from embargo operations involving UK and US boarding teams to air strike missions dropping precision ordnance against simulated targets. The Captain of ILLUSTRIOUS, Captain Tim Fraser said, ‘this is a really exciting opportunity for ILLUSTRIOUS. The exercise will allow us to train and test many aspects of our capability in a demanding scenario alongside the US Navy, while integrating USMC Harriers and 200 US personnel on board ILLUSTRIOUS.’
Source: Bell Helicopter
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