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Old 07-30-2007, 03:26 AM
GyBill GyBill is offline
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Marines make history aboard British carrier

Marines make history aboard British carrier

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Jul 29, 2007 10:45:31 EDT

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — “Lusty” isn’t going to leave for England disappointed.

After a 10-day exercise off America’s Eastern Seaboard, the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious — or “Lusty” as it’s affectionately referred to by its crew — has made history and a new record with the help of a squadron of Marine AV-8B Harriers.

“Clearly, we’re breaking new territory,” Cmdr. Ian Annett, Illustrious’ head of weapons engineering, said in a telephone interview from the ship July 25. “We really haven’t operated on this scale in an exercise before. It’s the largest embarkation of U.S. aircraft on a U.K. carrier ever.”

Lusty’s crew welcomed to its deck Marine Attack Squadron 223, a Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.-based squadron of 14 Harriers and about 200 leathernecks.

Operation Bold Step, a U.S.-led joint task force exercise, involved more than 16,000 military personnel from five countries. One goal of the exercise is to certify the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group for deployment later this year.

The exercise tested a broad spectrum of conflict from embargo operations to airstrike missions dropping precision ordnance onto simulated targets.

Marines have integrated with the ship’s 750-man crew, sharing berthing and swapping stories about how it’s done in the Royal Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps.

Annett said there are no plans for a U.S. Harrier squadron to deploy with a British ship.

“Our joint force Harriers are very much committed to operations in Afghanistan at the moment,” he said. “This has allowed us to keep that capability warm.”

Marines broke a record on the ship’s deck, completing 72 take-offs and landings, Annett said.

Lt. Col. David Lancaster, 223’s commanding officer, said the exercise was a success.

“This deployment has certainly exceeded our expectations,” he said in a July 26 interview from the ship. “These guys have been such great hosts and bent over backwards to support us out here.”

One of the first challenges the Marines and British sailors had to overcome was basic procedural and language differences, he said. British Navy flight deck operators use different arm and hand signals than those of U.S. sailors.

Acronyms are different. Most of the time, the sailors and Marines could figure them out, Lancaster said. But there has been a fair share of blank stares, he said.

The squadron’s missions have essentially been the same — defensive counter air missions and close-air support.

“We are performing all of our usual missions. It’s the big, obvious ones, like there’s not a battalion of embarked Marines onboard. There’s not [an air combat element] onboard. We’re working it as part of the JTF, but we don’t have the embarked helicopters other than the four Sea Kings,” Lancaster said.

But they’re flying more often than they would on a traditional training exercise with an expeditionary strike group.

“We’re excited to have an opportunity to do something that we know is historic,” Lancaster said. “And, while we’re doing that, we’re figuring out how to operate with one of our most important allies.”

Annett said there are no formal plans to get U.S. Harriers aboard the ship again in the future, but “we’d love to see this happen again.”
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