BRISBANE, Australia -- Just over 50 years ago, Kenneth E. Boulding created the concept of the Loss of Strength Gradient. Boulding posited that the amount of military power a nation can bring to bear in any part of the world depends heavily on the distance that power must travel to reach its objective. As the distance increases, the level of military strength projected decreases.
In the Marine Forces Pacific area of responsibility, which covers approximately 105 million square miles, distance is a hurdle confronting commanders on a daily basis. The AOR encompasses close to 50 percent of the world’s surface area, and is home to 60 percent of the world’s population. Getting Marines and equipment to the areas they are needed can present a unique challenge.
Enter the Marine Corps’ newest team, the MV-22 “Osprey” and the KC-130J “Hercules.”
“The Osprey/Hercules team provides the Marine Corps a long-range operational capability to deliver combat troops, humanitarian supplies and equipment to austere locations that have traditionally been unattainable by helicopters, due to their lack of range, or traditional transport fixed wing aircraft because of a lack of an airfield,” explained Col. Dave Krebs, the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing chief of staff. “This enhanced capability enables us to meet our regional security agreements, extended deterrence and decrease response times to our multilateral partners within the Pacific AOR.”
The strategic importance of the Osprey and Hercules was recently demonstrated by 1st MAW when Marines and aircraft from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, VMM-262 and Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron 152, flew approximately 4,700 miles from Okinawa, Japan, to Brisbane, Australia. The team flew aerial support missions with Marine Helicopter Squadron One in support of President Barack Obama’s attendance at the G20 Summit.
“Just about any aircraft can take off from Okinawa and island hop down to Australia,” said Lt. Col. Chris Murray, the commanding officer for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265. “But only the Osprey can take off from (Marine Corps Air Station) Futenma, island hop down to Australia, and then land in a space the size of a football field.”
Taken in three separate “legs,” the journey required the Osprey to refuel inflight several times. Both the Ospreys and Hercules transported the parts and equipment they would need to be completely self-sustained during the mission along with the Marines to maintain the aircraft. It is that ability to self-deploy that enables the two aircraft to be as effective as they are.
“I’ve watched (the team) grow over the last few years, and it continues to sharpen,” said Maj. Mitch Maury, the VMGR-152 executive officer. “We’re getting better, getting to know each other better, and learning what both platforms can do.”
The mission to Brisbane is just the latest notch in the team’s belt. Since the MV-22 first arrived on Okinawa in late 2012, it has supported several high level missions, most notably providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief during Operation Damayan when Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in 2013. During Operation Damayan, Ospreys evacuated more than 1,200 people and delivered more than 20 tons of supplies to remote areas where traditional aircraft could not reach.
“You need to understand the significance of that operational reach,” said Krebs of the distance the Osprey and Hercules can attain together. “Mumbai, India, at the Western edge of the Pacific AOR, is only 3,452 miles as from Okinawa; Anchorage, Alaska is only 4,424 miles from Okinawa; Honolulu, Hawaii is 4,716 from Okinawa. 1st MAW can project power or respond to crisis anywhere in the Pacific AOR rapidly and completely self-contained with our KC-130J and MV-22s, ready to support or fight the moment we arrive.”