USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea --
Operating in the Asia-Pacific region as the Marine Corps’ force in readiness, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit has demonstrated the capability to rapidly project forces anywhere in the region. With the addition of the MV-22 Osprey, the “9-1-1 force” can now reach much farther and move much faster.
Marines from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st MEU, have begun their first deployment with the MV-22 Osprey here, June 28.
The Osprey provides a broader range of capabilities than its predecessor, the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter. The Osprey is twice as fast, can carry triple the payload, and can travel four times as far because of its greater fuel efficiency, air-to-air refueling capability and unique tank system.
“With the Osprey we have a much greater range, which allows us to get to the objective faster and with more Marines on board,” Capt. Samuel A. “Skittles“ Richard, an MV-22 Osprey pilot and a native of Battle Ground, Wash.
The aircraft’s increased capabilities come from its ability to rotate its rotors forward once airborne, transitioning from helicopter mode to plane mode. Tearing through the skies at up to 316 miles per hour, the Osprey provides a 242 nautical mile mission radius.
“The Osprey provides exceptional flexibility, speed, range and increased payload, all of which will provide the MEU with more options during any exercise or operation we may be tasked with,” said Lt. Col. William L. Depue Jr., the commanding officer of the VMM-265 (REIN), 31st MEU, and a native of Haddon Heights, N.J. “The operational reach of the Osprey also allows us to plan and conduct missions in ways that we weren’t able to do previously.”
While the Osprey brings numerous advantages to the 31st MEU, operations from the sea bring challenges to the aircraft’s pilots. When landing an Osprey on the ground during the daytime, it has a motionless target area of 180 feet by 160 feet. When landing on a ship, however, the pilot must hit a much smaller and more specific spot on the flight deck.
“When landing the Osprey on the flight deck of the ship, it is not only moving forward, but also pitching side to side,” said Richard. “It is a precision landing, unlike landing on a large landing zone (ashore).”
The pilots of VMM-265 (REIN) recently concluded their qualifications in Osprey flight deck landings, ensuring their ability to support the many missions of the 31st MEU.
The 31st MEU is currently conducting its summer patrol embarked aboard the ships of Amphibious Squadron 11 in support of theater security operations and scheduled exercises.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.