US Marine Corps, May 03, 2015 - KATHMANDU, Nepal by Capt Cassandra Gesecki - Four MV-22B Ospreys arrived at Tribhuvan International Airport May 3 to support relief efforts in central Nepal after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the country on April 25.
An international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operation has been taking place in and around Kathmandu since the earthquake struck. These aircraft are part of the first wave of U.S. military aircraft that will arrive in country to support the relief effort.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been coordinating the U.S. government’s response efforts, conducting disaster assessments, and providing search and rescue capabilities since the disaster struck. On April 29, the U.S. military deployed a 20-person Joint Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team (JHAST) led by Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, to Nepal to support the USAID’S response efforts. A unique capability was identified during that initial assessment and USAID requested Department of Defense aircraft in order to access to hard-hit areas and speed up the delivery of critical emergency supplies.
"The MV-22B Osprey is the ideal aircraft for this type of HADR mission,” Kennedy said. “With its medium-lift capacity and ability to cover large distances in a reduced amount of time, we’ll be able to ferry supplies to outlying villages for Nepalese forces and NGOs to distribute.”
Since the Osprey’s arrival in Okinawa, it has established a solid track record as the Marine Corps’ go-to aircraft for disaster relief, successfully contributing to the humanitarian efforts during Operation Damayan in 2013. During that mission, the MV-22Bs evacuated more than 1,200 people, saving lives and delivering more than 20 tons of supplies to remote areas where neither traditional airplanes nor helicopters could reach.
The MV-22B has the ability to quickly convert from a rotary to fixed wing configuration, which makes it notably faster than more traditional rotary wing assets.
“This means that we can get more relief aid and much needed supplies to more isolated areas in significantly less time,” said Kennedy.
USAID has sent plastic sheeting and other critical humanitarian supplies to Nepal to be distributed to families in hard-hit areas such as Gorkha and Sindhupalchok, where homes have severely damaged or destroyed. USAID will identify how the MV-22Bs can best be deployed to expedite these materials to the people that need it the most.
Official sources have reported that more than 5,500 deaths had resulted from the earthquake in central Nepal and another 7,000 people had sustained earthquake-related injuries. 39 of Nepal’s 75 districts have been affected.
The United States military has been training with Nepalese forces to respond to just such a disaster for years. Most recently, Kennedy’s Marines from the 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade worked together with their Nepalese counterparts during two earthquake-focused training events in Nepal in 2013 and 2014.
“It seems unlikely that an amphibious force would come to this landlocked country but this is an event that we have been preparing for with our partners for years,” said Kennedy.