CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan - MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft will appear in the skies around Hawaii at the end of June as Marine Aircraft Group 24 receives the first MV-22 squadron to be permanently stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay.
The aircraft will participate in the biennial, multinational exercise “Rim of the Pacific” or “RIMPAC”. The Ospreys will be operated by the San Diego based Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (VMM-161), during RIMPAC but will remain at MCAS Kaneohe Bay at the conclusion of the exercise.
The MV-22 Osprey began replacing the CH-46 helicopter in 2005, which served the Marine Corps for more than 50 years. The MV-22 can deliver three times the payload of its predecessor, twice as far and in half the time. Since 2005, the Osprey has conducted numerous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to dozens of routine and special operations deployments worldwide.
Major Josh Fraser, a member of MAG-24, located at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, and MAG-24’s MV-22 Transition Officer has prepared for the arrival of MAG-24’s first MV-22 squadron and facilitated the squadron’s operational integration within Hawaii.
“As a Marine aviator, I have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was recently the Operations Officer for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 when it became the first MV-22 squadron stationed in Okinawa, Japan in 2012,” Fraser said. “From Okinawa, we routinely deployed to South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Australia to conduct bilateral training with our Allies and Partner Nations; as well as disaster relief operations throughout the region.”
Fraser said that with the amount of misinformation surrounding the MV-22, it is important to learn about the capabilities and safety record of the MV-22 directly from the source. In Japan, this was accomplished by providing briefs and tours of the aircraft for individuals to see the aircraft in person and speak one-on-one with the aircrew.
According to Fraser, the new squadron satisfies a role of aviation that was previously missing from MAG-24.
“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. 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, which consists of supplemental lift capacity, with greater speed and range.”
Fraser said the speed and range of the MV-22 are the characteristics that bring synergy to Marine aviation, and provide increased responsiveness to austere locations throughout the Pacific, including Hawaii.
Hawaii is one of the last locations scheduled to receive the MV-22. The first operational squadron was activated in 2005 at MCAS New River, and the Marine Corps has since upgraded all of its CH-46 squadrons into MV-22 squadrons on East Coast, West Coast and Japan. This includes the Presidential helicopter squadron, HMX-1, stationed at Quantico, Virginia.
Over the past eleven years, MV-22 squadrons have conducted repeated tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, plus continuous shipboard deployments with Marine Expeditionary Units and special-purpose deployments around the globe. The MV-22 has also participated in disaster relief operations in Haiti, the Philippines, Nepal and Japan. Most recently, eight MV-22s were used in disaster relief operations after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck Kumamoto, Japan. After a request for aid from Japan was received, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit responded with the Ospreys within 24 hours.
Fraser said the MV-22 is a “game changer” in Marine Corps aviation due to the characteristics and capabilities of the aircraft.
“What makes a tiltrotor aircraft unique is its ability to fly in two different modes, “conversion mode” (like a helicopter) and “airplane mode”, simply by adjusting the angle of its rotors. This enables the Osprey to takeoff like a helicopter, fly fast and high like an airplane, and deliver supplies to austere locations without a runway. When the Marine Corps deployed MV-22s to Okinawa, it immediately became apparent that the MV-22 is exceptionally suited to archipelago operations.”
In the years since the MV-22’s introduction, Japan has made plans to purchase the Osprey for its military, and several other countries have expressed interest in doing the same. In Hawaii, the MV-22 will be capable of reaching more distant training areas and flying at higher altitudes to lessen impacts to residential areas.
To Fraser, one of the most important things about the introductions of the Ospreys to Hawaii is that “MAG-24 will remain a force-in-readiness, more capable than ever to respond to crisis’ and to train in exercises in Hawaii and across the western Pacific.”