Iconic Osprey aircraft operates with RFA Mounts Bay in historic first

Topic: Fighting armsRoyal Auxiliary Fleet Storyline: RFA Mounts Bay

Amphibious ship RFA Mounts Bay has become the first Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel to operate with the US military’s unique Osprey ‘tiltrotor’ aircraft during missions off the Scottish coastline.

The MV22 Osprey from the US 7th Special Operations Squadron based at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk landed on Mounts Bay while she took part in the Littoral Strike Group (North) deployment.

The iconic warbird takes off and lands just like a helicopter, then rotates its propellers to fly like a conventional aircraft.

RFA sailors worked with personnel from 1700 and 847 Naval Air Squadron to land the Osprey, which was providing air support to Royal Marines from 45 Commando during amphibious exercises. 

Flight Deck Officer Mick Burton RFA was delighted to make his own little bit of history in landing the aircraft on deck, supported by Officer of the Watch 3/O(X) Chris Hancock and Cadet Jack Davies who were responsible for ensuring the ship safely operated the aircraft from the bridge.

FDO Burton said: “After lots of preparation for today, myself and the team were delighted to work with such a fascinating aircraft and I look forward to working with it lots more in the coming weeks.”

The Osprey’s debut on Mounts is the result of several months of planning and work between the squadron and ship, including preparation work in Portland at the beginning of last month.

The milestone has added significance as one of the RFA’s Bay-class ships is lined up for conversion into a Littoral Strike Ship, meaning it will be central to future commando operations and continue to work with US armed forces, the Osprey included. 

Operated by the US Marine Corps and US Air Force, it’s the main battlewagon 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. 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 tiltrotor design, can land in and take-off from the tight spots.