USNS Sacagawea conducts first flight operations with MV-22 Marine Osprey

The following blog post was written by Ensign Chang Liu, MPS Squadron Three Public Affairs, during Exercise Freedom Banner and Balikatan off the coast of Subic Bay, Philippines, April 2013.

Marine Corps pilots from the Okinawa-based “Dragons” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron VMM-265 conducted flight operations with MV-22B Ospreys aboard USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2) this week – the first-of-its-kind training with the dry cargo/ammunition and Maritime Prepositioning Force ship.

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Beginning April 6, Osprey pilots initiated a series of take-offs and landings aboard Sacagawea. Flight operations with the tilt-rotor Osprey, designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft, continue through April 11.

Marine Corps aviation personnel are workiong closely with civil service mariners from Sacagawea in familiarizing themselves with the aircraft’s unique capabilities as well as cargo lifting and passenger transfer capabilities. 

“This is our first MV-22 landing, fueling, cargo and passenger transfer and Sacagawea is leading the way with safe and smooth Osprey operations.” – Capt. Rollin Bellfi, Sacagawea’s civil service master

Part of the training also occurs ashore where Marines and civil service mariners assigned to Sacagawea’s flight deck practice lifting a Marine Corp Humvee light vehicle in preparation for an at-sea cargo operation aboard Sacagawea later in the week. 

At nearby Subic Bay international airport, flight deck personnel practice hooking up the Humvee to the MV-22, lifting it and placing it safely on the ground. 

“The Osprey is the obvious solution to the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary aerial ship-to-shore connector for sea-based logistics.” – Maj. Sean Forester, USMC 

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Sacagawea will conduct additional landing qualifications, refueling operations, passenger transfers and cargo lifts with the Osprey throughout the remainder of Exercise Balikatan, an annual exercise aimed at improving Republic of the Philippines-United States combined planning, combat readiness, and interoperability while enhancing security relations and demonstrating US resolve to support the Republic of the Philippines against external aggression.. 

Along with USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011), Sacagawea is currently deployed to the Philippines in support of exercise Freedom Banner and Balikatan and delivered 170 pieces of Marine Corps cargo ashore via U.S. Navy watercraft last month. Once ashore, the cargo is used by the III Marine Expeditionary Force for its field portion of exercise Balikatan.

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