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‘A little bit special’ – unique US aircraft lands on Illustrious
19 September 2013

HMS Illustrious hosted the US Marine Corps’ most unusual looking aerial battlewagon when she joined forces with an American amphibious group in the Middle East.

It’s the second time that a tiltrotor MV-22 Osprey – half helicopter, half turboprop – has touched down on the deck of the veteran Portsmouth-based carrier.

Pictures: PO(Phot) Ray Jones and LA(Phot) Nicky Wilson, HMS Illustrious

COMING in to land on the deck of veteran helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious, this is the rather ungainly form of the US Marine Corps’ MV-22 Osprey – half helicopter, half turboprop.

The world’s first tiltrotor aircraft – capable of carrying two-dozen American marines into battle at twice the speed of a conventional helicopter – made its second appearance on the deck of Lusty in the Red Sea.

At the controls of the MV-22 Capt Goudy USMC and Lt Al Wootton RN – a Fleet Air Arm Lynx pilot on a three-year exchange with our American brethren.

The duo are based on the assault ship USS Kearsarge (home to 12 Ospreys) which passed Lusty as she headed south through the Red Sea on the latest stage of her Cougar 13 deployment.

The encounter allowed Illustrious the chance to practise hosting this chimera of an aircraft once again – it first put in an appearance on her deck off the Eastern Seaboard of the USA back in 2007.

Present at those trials and again in the Red Sea was Lusty’s Lt Cdr Nigel Terry, who says the opportunity of working with the tiltrotor craft again was one not to be missed.

“This is an invaluable opportunity to continue to grow our ability to work together with other nations – absolutely essential in modern naval operations.

“It allows us to grow our understanding of our different procedures as well as providing valuable training for our deck crews.”

There are no plans at present for Britain to acquire any MV-22s, but given the close co-operation between the US and Royal Navy around the globe, the ability to operate an Osprey from the flight deck of a British carrier could prove a useful skill to have.

The flying wasn’t all one way – Lusty’s Army Air Corps Lynx and Jungly Sea King dropped in on the Kearsarge, carrying a few passengers to get a brief insight into a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, which is a mixture of HMS Ocean-Illustrious-Bulwark… but twice the size: she carries up to 1,900 marines in addition to an 1,100-strong ship’s company, plus Ospreys, Harriers and Seahawks.

“Everyone was very professional and polite,” said Capt Jim Cody, in charge of the Kearsarge’s Amphibious Ready Group.

“Any time countries come together at sea to work and learn from each other, that is what it’s all about. When it’s one of our oldest and most trusted allies, it makes it a little more special.

“I only regret we did not have enough time to do even more and test more of our joint capabilities.”