Marine Ospreys make first Pacific deployment on Bonhomme Richard
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The MV-22 Osprey — a hybrid tilt-rotor aircraft relatively new to the Pacific — has made its maiden deployment aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.
Four MV-22s from squadron VMM-263 landed onboard June 14 and are patrolling the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility on a regularly scheduled summer deployment, according to U.S. Navy statements.
The first batch of Ospreys arrived in Japan in September to replace the Marine Corps’ CH-46E Sea Knight assault support helicopter. Japanese protests followed due to the Osprey’s spotty development history and recent high-profile crashes.
The Osprey is unique because it can operate as a helicopter or a turboprop aircraft and offers twice the speed, four times the range and three times the payload of the CH-46E, Marine Corps officials said. Navy officials said embarking the aircraft demonstrated the U.S. government’s commitment to the defense of Japan and the security and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
“The first MV-22 embarkation is important because it sets the tone for the rest of the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility by bringing this new capability to the region,” Bonhomme Richard’s air department head Cmdr. Hans Sholley said in a statement. “It allows the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit to get troops over the horizon much quicker.”
The Bonhomme Richard is joined by the USS Germantown and USS Denver on patrol, according to the statement. All three ships are forward deployed to Sasebo Naval Base in southwestern Japan.
On this patrol, the amphibious ready group will undergo rigorous training that combines the Navy and Marine Corps maritime and sea-to-shore capabilities and work with allies and partners in the region to improve combat readiness and interoperability.