Working the Evolution of the Aussie Amphibious Task Force: MV-22 Lands on HMAS Canberra


2016-08-07  Over the years, the MV-22 has been certified on a number of coalition ships, the latest is the HMAS Canberra.

During an interview when a Dutch ship was conducting certification trials, the Captain of the ship highlighted what was at stake with the effort:

In a phone interview prior to the event with the Captain of the HNLS Karl Doorman, Peter Van Den Berg, the interoperability exercise and its origins was discussed…..

Van Den Berg: I think the Osprey in amphibious warfare is a real game changer. The Osprey will allow us the ability to sustain our support missions because of its ability to link us for a distance and with real speed. There is a shortage of decks; we need a connector like the Osprey able to link up those ships into an operational seabase for a coalition effort.

And from an amphibious point of view, you can operate an Osprey deep and with speed inland.

It changes the nature of the meaning of amphibious operations.

It not only expands the operational reach, but can allow ships to be further from shore and be more secure.

Now the HMAS Canberra joins the coalition capable Osprey ships able to operate in the battlespace.

According to the Australian Ministry of Defence:

“HMAS Canberra conducted trials with a United States Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 16 to further increase capability and interoperability US and Australian military forces.

The MV-22B Osprey is an American multi-mission, tiltrotor aircraft with both vertical and landing (VTOL), and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities. The Australian Defence Force is deploying three ships, four aircraft and more than 1650 personnel to take part in Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2016 (RIMPAC 16) off the coast of Hawaii and California.

MV22 on HMAS Canberra from on Vimeo.

The multinational activity held from 30 June to 4 August 2016 is the world’s largest maritime exercise and includes more than 25, 000 personnel from 26 countries. RIMPAC seeks to enhance interoperability between Pacific Rim armed forces, ostensibly as a means of promoting stability in the region to the benefit of all participating nations.”

It might not be immediately evident what is happening with the amphibious ships in the Aussie fleet.

When the two new ships were bought, it was in a period of time when such ships were largely transport assets for the ground forces and multi-mission ships for HADR missions in the region.

When the Osprey came to the US fleet, the amphibious fleet started to change, given the range and speed of the Osprey. The fleet started to distribute across a larger area of operations and began to evolve as the Osprey itself evolved. The coming of the F-35B is accelerating the transformation of the role of the amphibious ship

The Aussie amphibious ships are becoming operational as the twin processes of transformation of the fleet and of airpower are underway.

Now the Aussies have the opportunity to rethink what an amphibious task force would look like for them as the RAAF transforms its forces.

For example, the Army and Navy are working closely with the Wedgetail squadron to sort out the best ways to operate in the future and exercises are scheduled this Fall to test out work in progress. With the P-8 and Triton coming a well, this is a work in progress.

But what is clear that the original context for the purchase of the ships has changed and what you can do with the ship has changed as well.

The Osprey fleet interacting with US and coalition ships is creating a core capability for the coalition force as well.

In a piece published on June 15, 2015, the role of the Osprey and coalition warships was highlighted by Second Line of Defense:

“The speed and range of the Osprey is a key combat enabler.

It also provides significant reach and range to connect US and allied warships into a 21st century sea base.

The capability to provide for resupply has been demonstrated many times, but the capability delivered in Operation Odyssey Dawn whereby Ospreys flew roundtrip from the USS Kearsarge to Sigonella to resupply Harriers was a clear statement of new opportunities.

As the Osprey has become a fixture of USMC and USAF global operations, the Marines have been working operations off of foreign warships as part of the process of building out an Osprey-enabled sea base, writ large.

Among others are the UK, French, Japanese, South Korean, and now Dutch warships.”

Credit: Australian Ministry of Defence for the video and initial quotations about the landing

July 15, 2016.

The slideshow above showing the MV-22 landing on HMAS Canberra is credited to the Australian Ministry of Defence.