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V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft conducts first flight tests from US Navy USNS Mercy hospital ship


According to information published by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) on April 15, 2021, the 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.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 A V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft conducts take-off and landing from the flight deck of the U.S. Navy USNS Mercy hospital ship. (Picture source U.S. Navy)


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 test 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 ship's 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 the first use of V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft from the flight deck the USNS Mercy. “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.”, said Capt. Kendall Bridgewater, commander, Military Sealift Command Pacific.

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.

The CV-22 Osprey is a tiltrotor aircraft that combines the vertical takeoff, hover and vertical landing qualities of a helicopter with the long-range, fuel efficiency, and speed characteristics of a turboprop aircraft. The mission of the CV-22 is to conduct long-range infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply missions for special operations forces.

The USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) is a hospital ship in service with the United States Navy. Launched on 20 July 1985, she was commissioned on 8 November 1986.

The USNS Mercy a length of 272.6 m, a breadth of 32 m, a draft of 10 m, and a displacement of 69,360 tons. The ship is able to provide medical services to military personnel or civilians such as surgical, optical, dental, X-ray, full laboratory, and pharmacy. She features 50 casualty receiving stations, one angiography suite, and two oxygen generation plants.

The USNS Mercy could accommodate 12 fully equipped operating rooms and 1,000 beds, of which 88 are dedicated to intensive care. She has a flight deck with place for one helicopter.