The first MV-22 Osprey to be embarked with a ship in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations lands on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) in the East China Sea, June 14. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Edward Guttierrez III)

EAST CHINA SEA - The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) embarked four MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 for their maiden Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) deployment, June 14.

The MV-22 Osprey is designed as the medium-lift replacement for the Marine Corps' CH-46E Sea Knight assault support helicopter and provides a revolutionary change in capabilities. The Osprey can operate as a helicopter or a turboprop aircraft and offers twice the speed, six times the range and three times the payload of the CH-46E.

"The First MV-22 embarkation is important because it sets the tone for the rest of the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR) by bringing this new capability to the region," Cmdr. Hans Sholley, Bonhomme Richard's air department head, said. "It has double the range of the CH-46 and allows the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to get troops over the horizon much quicker."

The Osprey measures more than 57 feet long, has a wingspan of nearly 85 feet, a height of 22 feet, airspeed of 280 knots; and a max gross weight for a vertical take-off of 52,600 lbs and 57,000 lbs for a short take-off. The crew of an Osprey consists of a pilot, co-pilot and a crew chief, and is capable of holding 24 combat-equipped troops.

"The MV-22 brings a lot of new capabilities to the 31st MEU," Sholley said. "The MV-22 is a great asset that carries on the legacy of the CH-46 of providing assault support to the 31st MEU."

The deployment of the MV-22s to the 7th Fleet AOR demonstrates the U.S. government's commitment to the defense of Japan and the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East in support of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation as well as the security and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. MV-22s enhance the Navy-Marine Corps team's ability to conduct amphibious operations and perform humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Bonhomme Richard is the lead ship, and the first of three ships of the amphibious ready group (ARG) to get underway, and will be joined by USS Germantown (LSD 42) and USS Denver (LPD 9) at a later date. Bonhomme Richard ARG is currently operating in the 7th Fleet AOR and reports to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.