A U.S. Marine Corps V-22 Osprey landed July 10 on the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, the first time the vertical-takeoff-and-landing tiltrotor had operated from the deck of a foreign warship, a Royal Navy spokeswoman said.The touchdown was the first of several expected over the several weeks of a Joint Task Force Exercise involving U.S. and Britain warships off America’s eastern seaboard. Illustrious, which is leading one of three strike groups in the exercise, will also host as many as 14 U.S. AV-8B Harrier combat aircraft, the largest number of foreign aircraft to operate at one time from an Invincible-class carrier, the spokeswoman said. The ship is also home base for two squadrons of British Sea Kings.The spokeswoman said the landing was to enable the British and U.S. navies improve interoperability.Industry sources said the landing would also inform the debate in Britain over the provision of a Maritime Airborne Surveillance and Control aircraft for two 65,000-ton carriers expected to be built for the Royal Navy for operation from the middle of the next decade.Lockheed Martin is leading AgustaWestland and Thales UK in an assessment of the requirement. The most likely aircraft is seen as the EH101 Merlin, but other options, including the V-22, have been considered. The British navy uses a modified Sea King for airborne surveillance from its Invincible-class carriers.

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