First Osprey aircraft to be based in Hawaii to arrive at month's end for exercises

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An MV-22 Osprey aircraft takes off from the flight deck of the USS Boxer on June 15, 2016. (Brett Anderson/U.S. Navy)
An MV-22 Osprey aircraft takes off from the flight deck of the USS Boxer on June 15, 2016. (Brett Anderson/U.S. Navy)

First Osprey aircraft to be based in Hawaii to arrive at month's end for exercises

by: William Cole | .
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | .
published: June 24, 2016

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The first Marine Corps tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft to be based in Hawaii will be arriving by the end of the month to take part in Rim of the Pacific exercises, the Marines said.

While the first full squadron will have 12 MV-22s, a smaller number will fly off the amphibious assault ship USS America in support of troop movements on Oahu and Hawaii island for RIMPAC, the corps said.

Capt. Tim Irish, a Marine Corps spokesman, said those Ospreys, with the San Diego-based Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (VMM-161), will remain at Kaneohe Bay after RIMPAC and become part of the first Osprey squadron in Hawaii, VMM-268, which will be further constituted in the fall.

A second squadron of 12 Ospreys, VMM-363, is scheduled for Hawaii in fiscal 2018, according to a Marine Corps aviation plan.

The 57-foot-long Osprey takes off like a helicopter, but once airborne its rotors tilt forward and the MV-22 converts to a turboprop airplane capable of 310 mph cruise speeds and high-altitude flight. The Marines say the Osprey can carry 24 combat troops twice as fast and five times farther than helicopters.

During RIMPAC, the Ospreys will be providing assault support for ground combat forces from the Kaneohe-based 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, and the seven partner and allied nations they will be training with, Irish said.

Maj. Josh Fraser, the Marine Aircraft Group 24 MV-22 transition officer at Kaneohe Bay, said in a Marine Corps-produced news story that the Ospreys fill a gap in Hawaii.

“MAG-24 serves the Marine Corps and Hawaii by fulfilling multiple aviation roles. One of those roles is to provide an assault support capability, or the vertical lift of people, equipment and supplies,” Fraser said. “This capability is divided into three categories: heavy, medium and light, based on lift capacity. Currently, MAG-24 possesses both the heavy and light assault support capabilities with their CH-53E Super Stallion and UH-1Y Huey aircraft. The MV-22 Osprey will fulfill the medium-lift role.”

Fraser said the Osprey is a “game changer” with its abilities, including being able to deliver Marines and supplies to locations without a runway. The aircraft proved its mettle in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Marines maintain it is very safe, but it has experienced high-profile fatal crashes, including a May 17, 2015, accident at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows. The crash also involved VMM-161, the same unit taking part in RIMPAC.

At 110-feet altitude and after consecutive landing attempts in severe brownout conditions, the Osprey ingested enough grit to cause a port-side engine failure, leading to a rapid descent and crash, an investigation found. Two California-based Marines were killed and others were injured.

The MV-22 has participated in disaster relief operations in Haiti, the Philippines, Nepal and Japan, the Marines said. Bell Boeing last year was awarded a Navy contract for five V-22 Ospreys to be delivered to Japan, marking the first sale of the aircraft through the U.S. government’s foreign military sales program, the company said. The V-22 will be in service with the U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force Special Operations Command and Navy, Bell Boeing said.

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