Military Sealift Command Looks to Expand Air Support Options for its Hospital Ships


Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) is currently conducting dynamic interface testing operations off the coast of Southern California. The operations are tests for compatibility usage of variants of the V-22 Osprey and MH-60 Seahawk with the ship’s new flight deck, and the first time a V-22 has landed on an MSC hospital ship. 

The testing takes place following a seven-month maintenance period where the ship’s flight deck was expanded and reinforced to accommodate the size, weight and heat of larger aircraft, allowing the ship to receive patients and supplies through a variety of aviation platforms. 

Over the course of several days, the ship will exercise with the V-22, practicing take-offs and landings from Mercy’s flight deck, followed by operations with the MH-60s. Increased flight operations will allow critical patients a quicker route to the ship for treatment, vice a slower boat ride from one of the ships tender boats. 

Because this is the first time the V-22s have conducted flight operations onboard Mercy, Navy personnel from San Diego, Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63), America-class amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA 7), Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron 3 and Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) Squadron 49, are onboard to train and assist the civil service mariner crew. 

“This is a historic event in the storied life of the USNS Mercy, and for MSC,” said Capt. Kendall Bridgewater, commander, Military Sealift Command Pacific. “Improving the capability of the ship to support newer aircraft platforms such as the MV-22, allows greater flexibility and enhances the embarked Medical Treatment team’s ability to continue providing the outstanding care they are known for. This investment in new capability is a great example of MSC’s continued support to the fleet and plays an important role in keeping the U.S. Navy competitive well into the future.” 

The dynamic interface operations are one of several training, testing and inspection periods the Mercy will undergo in preparation for future missions, including the Pacific Partnership humanitarian mission.

This article was published by the Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet on April 19, 2021.

Video by Seaman Luke Cunningham 

Military Sealift Command Pacific  

This is a case study of expanding the cross decking options which the Osprey opens up for the Navy as it works its evolving fleet appraoch to blue water expeditionary operations as well. The coming of the CMV-22B to the large deck carriers means that unlike the C2 which it is replacing, this support aircraft can perform fleet functions as well such as this lift for medical purposes, which indeed was exercised in a recent landing onboard the USS Carl Vinson as well 

Medical personnel carry a simulated patient during a medical transport drill on the flight deck of Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). The drill was the first-ever medevac by a Navy CMV-22B Osprey aboard an aircraft carrier. Vinson is currently underway conducting routine maritime operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Aaron T. Smith/Released)

Also, read the following with regard to cross-decking,

Reworking the Sea Base and Cross Decking of Air Combat Assets