By lex, on March 23rd, 2011
The US Marines embarked aboard an amphibious ready group us a “rapid response planning process”, or R2P2 to prepare for each of the 22 roles and missions that a Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) is expected to be able to accomplish. They can go from warning order to execution using a cookbook process shaped by real-time intel in three hours. Watching the unit leaders go through a confirmation brief with the MEU commander prior to execution is an amazingly detailed experience – the first time.
As demonstrated by the recent Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel from a field in Libya, the process even works:
Shortly after midnight, a pair of AV-8B Harrier jump-jets launched from the USS Kearsarge and rendezvoused over the crash site with a circling fighter jet, who by then had made contact with one of the F-15 crew members—the pilot—on the ground.
In parallel, two MV-22 Ospreys—specialized aircraft that can take off and land vertically like a helicopter but can fly as fast as a fixed-wing aircraft—prepared to launch from the Kearsarge.
And a force of more than three dozen Marines boarded two CH-53E helicopters to provide security for the rescue mission, known in military parlance as a “tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel.”
With the Ospreys and helicopters en route, the Harriers dropped two 500-pound laser-guided bombs near the crash site in what a senior Marine officer described as a “precautionary” measure to warn off people who might have been approaching the aviator on the ground.
“My understanding is [the pilot] asked for ordnance to be delivered in between where he was located and where he saw people coming toward him,” said a senior Marine officer, citing preliminary reports.
The Ospreys reached the pilot’s location by 2:19 a.m. local time. While the helicopters hovered overhead, one of the Ospreys landed to recover him. The Ospreys returned to the Kearsarge with the F-15 pilot aboard by 3 a.m. local time.
Obviously a pre-planned event, since the F-15 crew had bailed out just before midnight.
Pretty damned good work.