EAST CHINA SEA - Aviators assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), completed carrier qualifications aboard amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), Jan. 21.
America regularly conducts flight operations with VMM-265(REIN) to maintain readiness and integration with the forward deployed naval forces of the America Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG).
VMM-265 serves as the aviation combat element (ACE) for the 31st MEU. The squadron provides MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, CH-53E Super Stallions, AH-1Z Vipers, and UH-1Y Venom helicopters. Additionally, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 reinforces the ACE with a detachment of F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft, adding a fixed-wing offensive aviation capability to the MEU.
“The United States Marine Corps is our number one warfighting partner,” said Capt. Luke Frost, America’s commanding officer. “Carrier qualification is a fundamental skill that underpins the America Expeditionary Strike Group's readiness to conduct full spectrum military operations - from combat to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, anywhere in the Indo-Pacific region.”
For pilots, carrier qualification typically consists of one month of training, beginning with simulation-based exercises and ground landings that simulate a ship’s flight deck. After completing these steps, pilots will begin shipboard practice to ensure they are able to perform takeoffs and landings safely. The ship’s flight deck crew, air operations team and bridge watchstanders must also become proficient at launching and recovering aircraft.
“There is nothing better than working with our extraordinary Marine Corps teammates to create the integrated American naval power that our nation and our leaders count on,” said Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7. “Having a fully qualified air combat element ready to operate aboard the Navy's newest amphibious assault ship provides an incredible capability in this critically important part of the world. I could not be more proud of this highly capable and lethal Navy-Marine Corps team.”
The Navy’s newest amphibious assault ship, America was designed from the ground up to include expanded flight operations capability that allows for greater interoperability with the Marine Corps F-35B.
America, flagship of the America ESG, 31st MEU team, is 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 stability in the Indo-Pacific region.