Wednesday, March 25, 2009

USS Bataan to Deploy With MV-22 Ospreys

In this 2008 file photo, a V-22 Osprey aircraft from the "Thunder Chickens" of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 263 conducts landing qualifications aboard the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Gearhiser.)

Focus on Defense:

USS BATAAN, At Sea, March 25, 2009 -- Sailors and Marines aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) will have their chance to make history later this spring as the first ship to deploy with the MV-22B Osprey in an amphibious environment.

Bataan will embark Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 263 with a complement of 10 Ospreys, providing increased flexibility over the CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-46D Sea Stallion in their ability to transfer equipment and troops from ship to shore.

The Sea Knight and Sea Stallion have been in service for more than 40 years, and they continue to provide support to the fleet. However, the Osprey brings greater range, lift capacity, speeds and the ability conduct aerial refueling.

The Osprey is a tilt rotor vertical short take-off and landing (VSTOL) aircraft. The aircraft has two large three-blade propellers, allowing it to take-off vertically, much like the helicopters it will replace. It then has the ability to transform in mid-air and use its large turboprop engine and transmission to fly like a plane.

In early 2005, Bataan started training and testing the MV-22. During the past four years, a full team came together to prepare the ship and her crew for this historical deployment. The crew has trained in several technical areas, such as airframes, hydraulics and avionics, electrical systems, maintenance control and most importantly training the flight crew attached to VMM-263.

"I'm eager to get to work after completing my training, and I'm looking forward to becoming completely operational. We all are striving to overcome all our challenges on board in order to become experts and execute our missions," said Staff Sgt. Michael E. Aguilar, VMM-263 crew chief, from San Antonio.

Still a fairly new aircraft in terms of operating on board Navy ships, Bataan used civilian contractors to assist with unpredictable repair challenges as well as training to help the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit gain more knowledge of the unconventional Osprey.

"Even though we are here to assist and train the Marines on the technical difficulties they might face, their ability to respond and repair shows their high level of knowledge on the craft," said Butch Smith, MV-22B Engine technical representative from Rolls-Royce.

Ospreys from VMM-263 previously performed more than 3,000 sorties and logged more than 5,000 flight hours in 2007, completing missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom while operating from Al Asad Airbase in Iraq.

"The MV-22 is a valuable asset for the Marines, and I love seeing it in action," said Staff Sgt. Eric Woody, an avionics mechanic for the MEU. "I know that the job I do assists in putting the Osprey in the air."

Bataan Amphibious Ready Group/22D Marine Expeditionary Unit (BATARG/22 MEU) is currently participating in its certification exercise (CERTEX) and recently wrapped up a composite unit training exercise (COMPTUEX). The exercises tested the Osprey in full combat-training evolutions, air-to-ground support, as well as non-combat missions, such as mass causality evacuation exercises.

Bataan is the fifth ship of the Navy's Wasp-class ships. She was commissioned Sept. 20, 1997, and is the second U.S. Navy warship to bear the name. CVL-29 was an Independence-class light aircraft carrier that was commissioned in November 1943. After serving in both World War II and the Korean conflict, CVL-29 was decommissioned in 1954.

(Report from a USS Bataan Public Affairs news release.)

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