On a single day in February, a squadron of 12 Ospreys operates across nearly 2,500 miles, in four nations in the Asia-Pacific region, bringing tremendous capability and crisis response preparedness for the United States in this region. And that type of distributed operations is becoming fairly common for the Osprey squadrons based in Okinawa.
“With the strategic reach of the Osprey comes the need to prepare and plan for more than was necessary in previous years before the Marine medium rotary-wing squadrons replaced their previous helicopters with the Osprey,” said Lt. Col. Larry Brown, the commanding officer of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron-262, known as the Flying Tigers.
“As the Ospreys have replaced the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters world-wide, the Ospreys have a greatly increased range among other benefits, and additional considerations have arisen due to the capabilities the newer aircraft bring,” Brown continued.
As an example, in mid-February, with multiple simultaneous operations in Okinawa, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand, Marines of VMM-262 have a lot to keep up with.
With three of his MV-22B Ospreys at the Singapore Air Show, 2,500 miles from their home base at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, in Okinawa, Japan, Brown must track and manage all daily requirements and tasks of the other nine aircraft in three other countries from afar. One of the most critical areas he considers daily is maintenance.
“We really have to be on our toes as far as planning for what types of maintenance we might have to do while deployed away from Okinawa,” said Brown. “With only a certain number of specific skill sets in the squadron, a limited number of specialized maintainers, we have to plan carefully to keep all of our assets in top shape. But our team comes together and makes it happen every day.”
With multiple simultaneous operations in Okinawa, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand, Marines of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 have a lot to keep up with, teamwork and communication are vital to success.
Simply keeping the daily schedule of a single unit spread across four time zones is a complex task, with schedulers pulling information from multiple locations in order to get a clear picture of what the squadron’s daily assignments are.
“Depending on how many aircraft we send to a mission, we have to have individual Marines with qualifications to perform certain types of maintenance,” said Sgt. Clark A. Justice, a collateral duty inspector, originally form Naples, Fla. “You also have to have the right amount of Marine maintainers, and all the necessary ground support equipment and tools to complete the maintenance at a distant location. Making sure that happens when we are operating in many countries at the same time is something the leadership constantly evaluates and plans for our success as a squadron. It is teamwork at its best.”
On any given day, the squadron might be operating in any number of nations in the Asia-Pacific region at the same time, and that means distributed operations across many thousands of miles are fairly common. Ospreys based in Okinawa have already operated as far north as the Republic of Korea, and as far south as Australia, covering combined distances of 5,000 miles or more between two continents.
“Based on our schedule, distances between detachments, and other planning factors, we think that our maintenance laydown looks quite a bit like fixed wing squadrons,” said Brown. “We need to consider ourselves a squadron of high-performance, long-range aircraft, instead of thinking about ourselves with the older helicopter models that preceded us.”
VMM-262 is at the Singapore Air Show, the largest defense exhibition in Asia, in order to showcase the capabilities of the MV-22 Osprey to the gathered international audience, including military and defense officials. The Singapore Air Show promotes interoperability among participating nations, and represents an opportunity to engage nations in the region with military-to-military discussions. The U.S. is the feature nation this year, and this is the first time Ospreys have appeared at the Singapore Air Show.
VMM-262 is part of Marine Air Group 36, 1st Marine Air Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.