The MV-22B Osprey squadron embarked aboard the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group has special permission to operate the grounded tilt-rotor in case of emergencies, the Marine Corps told USNI News on Friday.
All Air Force, Navy and Marine Ospreys were grounded on Dec. 6 following a crash of an Air Force Special Operations V-22 off the coast of Japan.
However, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, spread across USS Bataan (LHD-5) and USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) in the Red Sea and USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19) in the Eastern Mediterranean, has received special permission from the service to fly the Ospreys, a spokesperson said in a statement.
“Out of an abundance of caution, all Marine MV-22’s are in compliance with and participating in [Naval Air Systems Command]’s grounding bulletin. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is currently deployed aboard the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group with the 5th and 6th Fleets areas of operations with MV-22 Ospreys, CH-53s, AV-8B Harrier, and UH-1Y Hueys, as well as, MH-60s,” reads the statement.
“The 26th MEU is authorized to conduct limited operations of the Osprey in support of emergent operational necessity with the authorization of the three-star commanding officer.”
Originally deployed from the East Coast in July, the split formation has remained on station primarily as a contingency force if there is a need for a non-combatant evacuation from Lebanon, several defense officials told USNI News in the last several weeks. The 26th MEU’s MV-22Bs are flown by the “Golden Eagles” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162.
In April, USNI News flew aboard an Osprey assigned to the 26th MEU as part of a simulated non-combatant evacuation off the coast of North Carolina. During the exercise, the Marines stressed to USNI News how critical the platform would be in a mass evacuation.
The Navy is continuing to ground their deployed CMV-22B Ospreys aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). West Coast carriers Vinson, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) all use the Navy Osprey as their carrier onboard delivery aircraft. The COD logistics aircraft ferries people and material to and from the carrier at sea at ranges the ship’s helicopter force cannot reach. All carriers capable of fielding the F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter sail with the Ospreys, aircraft that are large enough to ferry an engine for a JSF.
Earlier this week, the Navy released photos of the older C-2A Greyhound detachment of the “Providers” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 operating from Vinson in the Philippine Sea. The forward deployed C-2As out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, usually support the Japan-based USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76). Earlier this year, the last West Coast C-2s flew to the East Coast to support carriers out of Naval Station Norfolk, Va.
As for the larger investigation into the Air Force Osprey crash that discovered a “potential material failure” in the platform, there has been no additional information as of Friday.
A message left with a Naval Air Systems Command spokesperson on Friday by USNI News was not immediately returned.