An MV-22 Osprey aircraft lifts off of the flight deck of USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), Feb. 19, in the Gulf of Thailand. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Achterling)

GULF OF THAILAND - For the first time while in a forward-deployed state, the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) conducted landing operations with the MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, Feb. 19.

The MV-22 Osprey is designed as the medium-lift replacement for the Marine Corps CH-46E Sea Knight assault support helicopter. 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.

"Today was the next stepping stone for Osprey's introduction into the 7th Fleet," said Cmdr. Hans Sholley, "air boss" aboard Bonhomme Richard. "After 40 years, this will be the last float with the frogs [Sea Knights] and we will miss them."

On board Bonhomme Richard, the two Ospreys conducted day time deck landing qualifications, carrier controlled approaches with the ship's amphibious air traffic control center and short take off procedures.

"This was my first time bringing in an Osprey," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Barry Swanson. "I wasn't nervous because of the training I received about the ins and outs of the MV-22s. The wind gusts are stronger than the 46's, but I was able to anticipate that."

The Osprey measures more than 57 feet long, 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, copilot and crew chief and is able to hold 24 combat-equipped troops.

"This is part of a crawl, walk, run process that will get us ready for the next deployment and effectively integrate the MV-22 into this AOR [area of responsibility]," said Sholley.

The MV-22 Osprey's mission for the U.S. Marine Corp is the transportation of troops, equipment and supplies from ships and land bases for combat assault.

The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, currently on deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, is made up of the Bonhomme Richard, USS Tortuga (LSD 46), USS Germantown (LSD 42) and reports to Commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11, forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan.