Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 cross-decked F-35B Lightning IIs from HMS Queen Elizabeth to the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), Nov. 8, 2021.
The following story, titled VMFA-211 and the 11th MEU Conduct Cross-Deck Operations, and written by 1st Lt. Zachary Bodner, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, appears on DVIDS website.
US Marines from “The Wake Island Avengers” were transported by a Royal Navy Merlin MK IV to the Essex to recover and refuel the F-35Bs, before launching them on mission ultimately to return to Queen Elizabeth. This evolution demonstrated the strategic importance of F-35 capable allied carriers, as well as the interoperability the F-35B facilitates.
“The fact the U.S. and the U.K. can operate their 5th-generation jets and other aircraft from the same deck at the same time is a huge strategic advantage for both countries,” said Royal Navy Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander of the U.K. CSG. “It is a compliment that the U.S. is comfortable with the U.K. Carrier Strike Group commanding the largest U.S. 5th generation air wing afloat today.”
Simultaneously, aircraft attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 165 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, landed on Queen Elizabeth demonstrating increased interoperability, information sharing, and expanded access across the region as allies, as well as credible and capable forces operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
Recently, the U.S. Marine Corps has landed F-35Bs on the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550). Last month, at the request of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, VMFA-242, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, conducted the first-ever landing of F-35B Lightning II aircraft aboard the Japanese Ship Izumo. Yesterday’s mission was the second time the U.S. has cross-decked F-35B’s from a foreign aircraft carrier, utilizing U.S. ships and an intermediate refueling point during the mission demonstrating naval partnerships in action.
“The evolution underscored our continued effort to shift away from static, built-up airfields towards Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO),” said U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Simon Doran, U.S. Senior National Representative to the U.K. CSG. “Doing so as part of the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group 21 strengthens our alliances and partnerships through the development of interoperable capabilities, combined operations, theater security cooperation, and capacity-building efforts.”
DMO calls for U.S. Naval Forces to operate in a less concentrated, more distributed manner to complicate an adversary’s ability to find, track, and target them while still delivering decisive combat power where needed. The dual-carrier operation extends the reach of the F-35B, increasing the aircraft’s range, flight time, and ordnance capacity.
In planning guidance released to the fleet, the Commandant of the Marine Corps highlighted that the Marine Corps is a naval expeditionary force capable of deterring malign behavior and, when necessary, fighting inside our adversary’s sensors and weapons engagement zone to facilitate sea denial in support of fleet operations and joint force horizontal escalation. VMFA-211’s F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing capabilities make them uniquely qualified to support distributed maritime operations, capable of operating from Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and landing helicopter dock ships.
For U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Brian Kimmins, the VMFA-211 Executive Officer, the mission marked a return to the Essex, where he had previously deployed as the 13th MEU Assistant Air Officer. Now an F-35B pilot, Kimmins landed aboard the Essex in a Royal Navy helicopter to serve as an F-35B Landing Signals Officer, where he is responsible for controlling the safe launch and recovery of F-35Bs aboard ship.
“Having deployed as part of the 13th MEU aboard the Essex, I appreciated the opportunity once again to work with the Marines and Sailors of the Essex,” said Kimmins. “Being at the forefront of putting the concept of advanced sea-basing into practice only further highlights our flexibility as a warfighting organization.”
The success of this mission, and the CSG-21 deployment, demonstrates that the U.S. and the U.K. are united in their efforts to ensure security and freedom of the seas, that their maritime power projection capabilities are interoperable, complementary, and global.
VMFA-211 is humbled and proud to continue the special relationship with the U.K. through the deployment of Carrier Strike Group 21. Their interoperability with the U.K, Netherlands, and additional international allies will preserve our collective military advantage and reinforce rules-based international order. The United States and United Kingdom’s forward-deployed forces remain ready to respond to crises globally as a combined maritime force – we stand together.
Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Wesley Richardson and Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John McGovern / U.S. Navy