The 2015 Yuma Airshow at MCAS Yuma in Arizona showcased US Marine Corps air power from fast jets to their rotary wing and revolutionary tilt-rotor assets. A highlight of the show was the Bell Boeing MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor V/STOL transport.
An MV-22B Osprey from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (VMM-166) from MCAS Miramar in California performed an extensive flight display showing how the tilt-rotors work in horizontal and vertical flight. This is one amazing aircraft and the demonstration was very impressive! It really is something to see those big tilt-rotors rotate quickly downward from vertical flight mode to allow for fast horizontal flight then return again for a vertical landing almost effortlessly. The versatility of the Osprey which first entered USMC service in 2007 is evident (it is used for expeditionary assault support, raid operations, cargo lift and special warfare and has seen operations in Iraq and Afghanistan) and the fact that it can carry 24 Marines twice as fast and five times further than any helicopter in the USMC air fleet makes it an invaluable asset.
An interesting USMC Search and Rescue (SAR) demo by a Bell HH-1N Twin Huey kept the crowd entertained. This is the last variant of the UH-1N series of helicopters still in USMC service and the final 10 will be retired in 2015 (they will be replaced by the already active Bell UH-1Y Venom). The HH-1N is not only on station for SAR duties for military aircraft at MCAS Yuma, they will also conduct rescues for civilians in the surrounding area when necessary.
Various USMC helicopters were also on static display: the Bell UH-1Y Venom twin-engined utility, Bell AH-1Z Viper gunship and a Bell HH-1N. The helicopters were accompanied by a static Bell Boeing MV-22B Osprey. The pilots and crews were all on hand to answer any questions and all of these displays were very popular during the show and tricky to get a clear photo of!
Nearby was a magnificent looking, specially painted Boeing Vertol CH-46E Sea Knight tandem rotor transport helicopter (known as the “Phrog” to the Marine crews) from Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron 164 (HMMT-164) “Knightriders” (based at Camp Pendleton, California). HMMT-164 is the last USMC CH-46E operator but they too are scheduled for replacement by the MV-22 Osprey in April 2015 (by October 2014 the Osprey had replaced all other CH-46 helicopters in USMC service). The E model originated in the 1980’s from A, D and F models that were updated with improved avionics, hydraulics and engines.
It will be sad to see the faithful Sea Knight go as these reliable helicopters have been the core helicopter of the USMC for decades and have seen extensive action in Vietnam, Beirut, the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan. The problem is that the first models entered USMC service way back in 1964 and the original production ran from 1962 to 1971! The airframes are old and age simply just catches up with everything eventually!
The rotary wing Marine aviators put on a great display and provided plenty of interest for the airshow crowd. Semper Fi!