A Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor transport from the US Marine Corps' VMX-22 test squadron has made history by performing the type's first landing aboard a non-US vessel, touching down on the UK Royal Navy's strike carrier HMS Illustrious on 10 July.
The UK is among a handful of nations - also including Israel and Saudi Arabia - to have been formally briefed on the capabilities of the V-22, and the type is viewed as a potential candidate to replace its navy's Westland Sea King 7 airborne surveillance and control helicopters.
A replacement aircraft could start its service life aboard the RN's current Invincible-class vessels, before the availability of its two 65,000t Future Aircraft Carriers during the next decade.
The deployment milestone has arrived in advance of Illustrious's planned participation in a US Navy-led Joint Task Force Exercise off the east coast of the USA, when the vessel will play host to up to 16 of the USMC's Boeing
AV-8B Harrier IIs, plus 200 personnel.
The ground-attack aircraft will operate alongside the RN's Sea King 7s during the manoeuvres, enabling the US Navy to witness the capabilities of the helicopter's Cerberus mission system, seen as a potential payload for some of its V-22s.
"Although it is a departure from normal operations, the landing demonstrates the truly flexible nature of the UK strike carrier and the Osprey," says Cdr Henry Mitchell, Illustrious' Commander (Air).