KOREAN PENINSULA -- A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft made its first ever landing on the flight deck of a Republic of Korea Navy amphibious assault ship off the coast of the Korean peninsula, March 26, 2015.
The Osprey departed from the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) nearby and landed on the ROK ship Dokdo (LPH-6111).
“The Osprey is our primary (assault support) aircraft,” said U.S. Marine Maj. Bryon DeCastro, Marine Forces Korea liaison with the ROK 7th Air Force stationed in Osan, ROK. “Given our longstanding alliance, it only makes sense to get (the Osprey) on board with the ROK ships.”
The aircraft is with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), the aviation combat element for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The landing was the first event in a week-long bilateral exercise called Korean Marine Exchange Program 15.1. The program promotes the two militaries working cooperatively on a range of operations to strengthen alliances and increase military capabilities between the two nations.
“Landing our Ospreys on the (Dokdo) for the first time gives us more flexibility in how we operate together and how we integrate our forces,” said Maj. David Shearman, a native of Hillsdale, Michigan, who co-piloted the Osprey onto the ROKS Dokdo. “The Osprey landing was for integration and so future plans can be implemented easier.”
During KMEP 15.1, approximately 2,200 U.S. Marines and 2,000 U.S. Navy personnel will work alongside 3,500 ROK Marine and Navy forces. The militaries will integrate key staff planners in order to improve their combined amphibious capabilities during several training events, both at sea and ashore. The Ospreys are scheduled to play a major role in support of the exercise.
“This will also prove the concept that we can operate with the Koreans more efficiently and it will make future operations with them a little bit easier,” said Shearman, director of safety and standardization with VMM-262 (rein), 31st MEU.
Since replacing the CH-46E on Okinawa in June 2013, the MV-22B Osprey has supported previous ROK-US exercises like SSang Yong ‘14 to transport troops and logistics. Landing on the ROKS Dokdo further demonstrated the versatility of the aircraft while laying the groundwork for future exercises.
With the initial landing accomplished, the Ospreys will be certified to land on Korean amphibious ships, said DeCastro, from Athens, Texas. “From this point on MEU planners and MEF planners, or anyone who is going to do anything with the Koreans dealing with ships and Ospreys, can look at a document showing (the Osprey) listed and this will speed up the planning process.”
The Marines of 31st MEU are embarked aboard the forward-deployed USS Bonhomme Richard, USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and USS Ashland (LSD 48). KMEP 15.1 is part of the 31st MEU’s annually-scheduled Spring Patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.