Marines thunder through Stuttgart skies

In coordination with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa, members of U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, and U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart had “hands-on” experiences with the MV-22B Osprey during a capabilities exercise on Patch Barracks, Kelley Barracks, and Stuttgart Army Air Field March 28. The MV-22B Ospreys visited from the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (Reinforced), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Part of the event was to introduce the MV-22B Osprey, which is a recent addition to the Marine Corps’ aviation inventory, to the EUCOM and AFRICOM combatant commands.

“The MV-22B brings new capabilities to the EUCOM theater. It’s important that our team understands the nuances of these capabilities as we begin to integrate this versatile aircraft into contingency and response plans,” said Vice Adm. Charlie Martoglio, EUCOM deputy commander. “These aircraft will be a tremendous asset as we work to protect American and allied interests,” he added.

For the exercise, three MV-22B Ospreys flew from an amphibious assault ship on the Atlantic Ocean, past Rota, Spain, to Stuttgart without having to land; a total of 1,400 nautical miles.

“I think it’s the future of how we’re going to provide medium-lift assault support in many ways,” said Lt. Col. Chris J. Boniface, the commanding officer of VMM-266, 26th MEU, II MEF. “It’s very important that we demonstrate this capability that the Marine Corps brings to the commands in the assault-support realm,” said Boniface, a Enterprise, Ala., native.

The MV-22B Osprey is a multi-engine, dual-piloted, self-deployable, medium-lift, vertical-takeoff and landing, tilt-rotor aircraft designed for combat support and special-operations missions. It combines the functionality of a helicopter with the performance of a turbo-prop aircraft.

“It’s the only airplane that can do everything a helicopter can,” said Capt. Erik B. Kolle, an MV-22B pilot, VMM-266, 26th MEU, II MEF. “It has proven in the last several years that it is a good choice,” added the Raleigh, N.C., native.

The MV-22B represents new capabilities in the region and can provide Marine Forces Europe and Marine Forces Africa a unique asset supporting their mission to respond to crisis, build partner-nation military capacity, promote regional security, and maintain a stabilization presence as directed by EUCOM and AFRICOM to protect U.S. national security interests. “It takes the Mediterranean Sea, for example, and turns it into a lake,” said Kolle, regarding the rapid travelling capability of the MV-22B.

“Before, if a MEU wanted to reach an area, they would have to bring the ships closer to that region and deploy helicopters. Now, with the MV-22B, you can have a MEU floating in Spain and have troops on the other end of the Mediterranean the same day,” Kolle said.

“If AFRICOM and EUCOM are going to have MV-22Bs in their areas of responsibility, it’s important to know how to employ these assets in the event that something happens,” added Kolle.

Within the EUCOM and AFRICOM areas of responsibility, most bilateral and multi-lateral exercises with allied and partner nations could be supported with combat-proven air support provided by the MV-22B, while other aircraft, such as the C-130 Hercules cargo plane, which requires a run-way for takeoff and landing, would prove less effective.

“I think the capabilities to fly as fast and as far as we can is significant in this area,” said Cpl. Justin J. Whiteman, an MV-22B crew chief, VMM 266, 26th MEU, II MEF.

To demonstrate the versatile landing capability of the MV-22B, two aircraft flew from Stuttgart Army Air Field, with one landing on Kelley Barracks, and the other landing on Patch Barrack’s Husky Field.

“We can do 280 knots and put troops into a variety of landing terrains and conditions; unpaved areas, mountain sides, dusty zones. Airplanes and helicopters just can’t do that,” said Whiteman, a Lancaster, Penn., native.

“I think it’s critical for quick-response teams to be able to get to places that are great distances apart, and the MV-22B is just that; quick response,” Whiteman said.

The aircraft, which reached its initial operation capability in 2007, has proven its operational efficacy with its ability to fly twice as fast, carry three times the payload, go twice as high, and travel almost five times the distance of other legacy medium-lift helicopters.

“The Osprey provides an awesome capability,” said Boniface, the commanding officer of VMM-266, 26th MEU, II MEF. “It can aerial refuel, climb up to 25,000 feet; it does anything the commander needs it to, from embassy reinforcement to tactical recovery of personnel missions and raids.”

The MV-22B replaces the Marine Corps’ CH-46 “Sea Knight” helicopter’s role in functioning as the Marine Corps’ amphibious assault transport of troops, equipment and supplies, between sea and land.