Four Hawaii-based MV-22 Ospreys arrived at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin today after flying nearly 6,000 miles and hopscotching across the Pacific, the Marine Corps said.
The tilt-rotor aircraft are with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 268 (VMM-268) out of Kaneohe Bay. It’s the first trans-Pacific flight the Ospreys have conducted from Hawaii to Australia, the Marines said.
“The movement demonstrates that the range of our MV-22s combined with our refueling capabilities can allow us to reach across the entire Pacific Ocean,” Marine Rotational Force Darwin said in a release.
Some 1,250 Marines mostly from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, out of California — but also Hawaii aircraft and personnel — are taking part in the annual deployment to Darwin in the Northern Territory.
The Corps sent its largest aircraft contingent to date — four MV-22 Ospreys, five AH-1W Super Cobra and four UH-1Y Venom helicopters, all out of Kaneohe Bay — to this year’s $25 million, six-month Marine Rotational Force Darwin iteration, which is intended to forge closer bonds with Australia while also giving the U.S. military another leaping-off point in the vast Pacific.
It’s the first deployment for VMM-268 out of Hawaii since the unit arrived from California last summer. By November the squadron had its full complement of 12 Ospreys, which take off and land like a helicopter and tilt the 38-foot rotors forward in level flight, converting the MV-22 into a high-speed turboprop airplane.
The squadron reached what’s known as “full operational capability” in Hawaii in January. Another 12 Ospreys are due in Hawaii in the 2018 fiscal year.
The MV-22 with a crew of three and 24 troops can cruise at 322 mph and has a range of 990 miles without refueling, according to the Navy. By comparison, the big CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter can carry 37 passengers in its normal configuration and up to 55 with centerline seats at 172 mph with a range of 621 miles.
The aircraft were expected to fly to Australia through Wake Island and Guam using KC-130 refuelers, Stars and Stripes previously reported.