LHD-8 and 15th MEU start new deployment

The USS Makin Island (LHD-8) with the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed their graduation exercise off the coast of Hawaii and officially deployed on 20 November 2020.

The LHD-8 is the flag ship of the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) that consists of the USS San Diego (LPD-22) and USS Somerset (LPD-25). The three ships departed the US West Coast in October to complete the last set of exercises ahead of their deployment that will lead from the US 3rd Fleet to the 5th Fleet in the Middle East.

The Aviation Combat Element (ACE) of the 15th MEU is Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 164 Knightriders ('YT-xx') equipped with the MV-22B. The squadron is reinforced with detachments of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 466 Wolfpack (4x CH-53E Sea Stallions), Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 469 Vengeance (UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper) and Marine Strike Fighter squadron (VMFA) 122 Flying Leathernecks (6x F-35B Lightning II). All units, except the F-35s that kept their 'DC-xx' tailcode, carry the VMM-164 tailcode.

The Makin Island itself has Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23 Wildcards ('WC-xx') assigned, flying the MH-60S Seahawk.

The deployment of the ARG is the first from the United States since the Bataan ARG returned in July with the 26th MEU embarked. The Japanese-based 31st MEU and the America ARG have deployed extensively in 2020 with USS America (LHA-6) making two extended patrols in the Western Pacific.

Photo: US Navy

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