Three amphibious ships, occupying approximately 262,000 square feet of the Indo-Pacific’s 100 million square mileage, with the ability to provide theater-wide influence and global effects – this is the value of a west coast Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked with an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).
On Dec. 3, 2022, the 13th MEU, which brings the full capabilities of an afloat Marine Air-Ground Task Force to U.S. 7th Fleet, executed an over-water flight of approximately 500 nautical miles (nm) to Guam, transporting personnel and conducting follow-on, unit-level training. Three MV-22B Ospreys, part of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 362 (Rein.), flew the two-and-a-half-hour flight shortly after the confirmation brief was delivered to the Makin Island ARG and 13th MEU leadership.
“We’re continuing to test the maximum range of the MV-22B over water,” said Lt. Col. Ricky Buria, commanding officer of VMM-362 (Rein.). Even though this flight requires approval from the 13th MEU commanding officer, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s standard operating procedure establishes a maximum distance of 600 nm from ship-to-shore, over-water flight distance, and 350 nm from shore-to-ship. While the blue-green team continues to test the capabilities of the Osprey, safety remains the number one priority. “I have full trust and confidence in the maintenance and reliability of the aircraft after hundreds of miles,” said Col. Samuel Meyer, commanding officer, 13th MEU. “This excellent maintenance generated on ship enables us to go anywhere we want and project power, when needed.”
For a shore-based squadron, it would normally take three to five days to prepare aircraft to travel this distance over water. “This (maintenance) is what our maintainers do on the ship every day,” said Buria. “Because we’re operating in open water, it doesn’t matter if we’re conducting normal flight patterns or going long ranges over water, we are always ready.”
Forward presence and consistent aviation readiness enable this amphibious team to respond swiftly to crisis, wherever needed. “As we move through the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility, we can reach out from the ship and touch just about anywhere we want to operate,” said Buria. Having 10 MV-22B’s with high levels of readiness on amphibious ships allows for persistent coverage across the Indo-Pacific. The synchronized choreography of ship movements and the MV-22B’s reach make the Makin Island ARG/13th MEU team the go-to crisis response force.
As a self-sustained amphibious force, no external assistance is required for Ospreys embarked aboard the Makin Island ARG/13th MEU. From maintenance, arming, and fueling to command and control, every aspect is provided across the three amphibious ships. Although this long-range flight would be possible without the ARG, the resources, manpower, and time to accomplish the mission would dramatically increase. “Projecting the Osprey from ARG shipping extends the reach and improves response time for the combatant commander,” said Meyer. By having a sea-based, ready squadron, the Makin Island ARG/ 13th MEU team can quickly and efficiently provide long-range reach across the spectrum of competition, providing theater-wide influence and global effects.
The 13th MEU is currently embarked on the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and amphibious transport dock ships USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26), operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with Allies and partners and serve as a ready-response force to defend peace and maintain stability in the Indo-Pacific region.