Falmouth’s affiliated ship RFA Mounts Bay has clocked up another first for a Bay Class ship by landing the US military’s unique aircraft-helicopter hybrid which has been training with amphibious ship ready for further interaction in the Baltic this spring.
The US Air Force’s 7th Special Operations Squadron dropped in on the support vessel off Portland with their MV-22 Osprey, the ‘tilt-rotor’ which takes off and lands like a helicopter, then rotates its propellers to fly like a conventional aircraft.
Operated by the US Marine Corps and US Air Force, it’s the main battle wagon for carrying American marines and related units into battle.
Royal Marines rely on the Merlin Mk4 to carry 24 commandos into battle at a time (based a short distance from Portland at RNAS Yeovilton with 845 and 846 Naval Air Squadrons).
The Osprey has a similar capacity (at a push you can squeeze an extra eight troops in the cabin), but can fly higher, further, faster than a helicopter, plus thanks to its tilt-rotor design, can land in and take-off from the tight spots.
The training – focused on safe operations on and off the Bay-class ship’s flight deck – gave Mounts Bay’s aircraft handlers/air operations team their first chance to work with an Osprey.
The Ospreys have dropped in on Royal Navy flight decks over the past decade, but not on a Bay-class ship until now. The vessels provide additional space to carry marines/troops and their equipment in support of Albion-class assault ships which spearhead any UK amphibious operation.
Further link ups are planned later this spring when Mounts Bay joins HMS Albion and the UK’s Littoral Strike Group heads to the Baltic for exercises with US and NATO forces, including the region’s largest annual naval workout, Baltops.
Mounts Bay returned to the UK in March 2020 after a highly successful deployment to the Caribbean where she worked alongside other Navies and HMS Medway. The followed a major refit at Falmouth.