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Wed, Apr 13, 2011

Marine Corps Makes Aviation History With Intercontinental Osprey Flight

Six Aircraft Fly From Afghanistan To Greece

The Marine Corps completed an aviation first, April 8, by flying MV-22B Ospreys on the aircraft's longest movement to date. Six Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 returned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit after a trek from Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, to Souda Bay, Greece, with the assistance of a pair of KC-130J Hercules from 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) who provided transport and aerial refueling support.

Ospreys Refueling

"As far as aerial refueling missions are concerned, this was a Marine Corps and Naval aviation first," said Capt. Ben Grant, the executive officer for the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 detachment currently deployed in support of operations in Afghanistan. "Never before has an MV-22 movement been conducted this far or on this scale. On this mission, the MV-22s travelled in excess of over 2,800 miles from Camp Bastion to Souda Bay, using aerial refueling provided by KC-130Js. We transited three continents over land and water, three combatant commands' areas of responsibility, and did it with no major issues."

The mission was conducted to return VMM-266 Marines, cargo and aircraft to the USS Kearsarge and the 26th MEU, which had been tasked to the Mediterranean region in support of operations in Libya. "This mission validated a capability that should ultimately be seen as routine," said Grant. "We affirmed the ability of the MV-22 to be long-range deployed with KC-130J support."

Grant said the mission was conducted over two separate movements consisting of two Hercules and three Ospreys. During both movements, the KC-130Js not only refueled the MV-22Bs, but also transported more than 50,000 pounds of VMM-266's essential cargo, maintenance and support equipment. Nearly 100 Marines also made the journey so they could join the rest of the 26th MEU, and prepare for their return to the U.S. "Our weather radar, familiarity with international flying, cargo capacity, communications and navigational abilities, and ability to aerial refuel the MV-22 makes us a combat multiplier for them, ensuring their success," Grant said of the KC-130J's abilities.

File Photo

Grant said the mission went well, a result of not only planning, but the Marines' ability to adapt to the situation. "Though we had prepared for a myriad of contingencies, none arose that required us to alter our timelines or routing," said Grant. "While each movement encountered expected and unexpected friction that had to be immediately addressed, each was handled superbly by the KC-130J and MV-22 Marines. Everyone involved worked as a team of professionals."

Grant said while the mission was the first of its type at this scale, he believes more missions of this nature will occur in the future. He said he sees movement like this becoming as routine for the Osprey as they are for other Marine Corps aircraft including F/A-18 Hornets, AV-8B Harriers and CH-53E Super Stallions.

Grant credited the mission's success to KC-130J and MV-22 maintenance and support Marines, cooperation from the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force, which aided with ramp space and air traffic control and support from other Marine units, like meteorological service. He also said many Marines throughout the region, other military services, and U.S. government agencies worked behind the scenes to ensure smooth coordination. "As Marines, we are not just warriors from the sea. We are warriors, from anywhere to anywhere on the globe," said Grant who also serves as a KC-130J weapons and tactics instructor. "This mission got the MV-22s on their way home. The next mission may be to get them to the fight, or from one fight to another."



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