MAY 24, 2016, MEDITERRANEAN SEA (NNS) – USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), U.S. 6th Fleet flagship, made history today as the first amphibious command ship to have an MV-22B Osprey land on its flight deck, May 23.
The MV-22B and crew are part of “The Thunder Chickens” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (VMM-263), based out of Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
The aircraft, “Thunder 00,” successfully executed four starboard and three port landings, and hot refueling before returning to Morn Air Base, Spain where they are deployed as the Air Combat Element of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa.
“Today’s Osprey landings enhance the afloat commander’s agility, range, and responsiveness in moving people and equipment at sea and ashore in support of assigned missions across the 6th Fleet area of responsibility. We are very proud of our Sailors’, civilian mariners’, and Marines’ milestone today, strengthening the Navy and Marine Corps team.” – Capt. Carlos A. Sardiello, commanding officer, USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20)
“The Osprey landing is a great example of the MSC (Military Sealift Command) and Navy coming together and adapting to the ever-changing operational requirements and technology that makes our nation’s military so fluid.” – Michael Bardoutsos, MSC cargo officer, USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20)
“VMM-263 and the USS Mount Whitney are working together to exercise shipboard flight deck familiarization. This consists of practicing landings and deck procedures, such as fueling and deck-heat mitigation. This will allow for successful operations between Ospreys and amphibious command ships, like the Mount Whitney, in the future. This is especially important with recent planned acquisitions by the Navy to make the Osprey their new Carrier on Delivery platform.” – Captain K.C. “Rooster” O’Malley, pilot training officer / assistant operations officer, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (VMM-263)
Designed for expeditionary assault support, raid operations, cargo lift and special warfare, the MV-22B Osprey has Vertical takeoff and landing, and short takeoff and landing (VSTOL) capabilities.
The Navy has only two amphibious command ships, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20). In 2011 the Chief of Naval Operations extended their service lives to 2039. An Extended Service Life Program (ESLP) is being executed jointly by Naval Sea Systems Command and MSC. ESLP is focused on ensuring the platforms can support the full range of mission requirements for an embarked numbered fleet commander.
Mount Whitney, forward deployed to Gaeta, Italy, operates with a combined crew of U.S. Navy Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners. The civil service mariners perform navigation, deck, engineering and supply service operations, while military personnel support communications, weapons systems and security. It is one of only two seaborne Joint Command Platforms in the U.S. Navy, both of which are forward deployed.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.