USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R 06) and members of several marine aircraft groups perfected their skills through joint training during July's Joint Task Force Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean.
One of these groups was Fixed-Wing Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 542.
Illustrious is attached to the UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10. Lt. Cmdr. David Cooper said the ship won't be attached to CSG-10 for deployment, but the destroyer HMS Manchester (D 95) will be. Illustrious is unique because they do not fly fixed-wing aircraft off their flight deck.
"Our navy uses primarily Harriers," said Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sparkey Gill, the UK liaison naval officer with CSG-10. "We're trying to integrate with the American forces and trying to learn how to operate an aircraft carrier like Truman."
The Royal Navy has plans to purchase two larger aircraft carriers in the near future. These carriers will begin launching fixed-wing aircraft off their flight decks. Gill mentioned Royal Navy forces are also learning to operate together.
"We are trying to work closely and familiarize ourselves with how our coalition counterparts operate," said Gill. "This is the first time we've integrated into an American battle group and we are trying to learn fixed-wing carrier operations."
AV-8B Harrier jets have been flying fighter-bomber attacks against ships and dropping ordnance on towed targets behind ships.
Cooper added training like this is helpful because at some point, multiple nations will have to work together to complete certain objectives. By better understanding each other, it can be done.
Training with foreign service members is a unique opportunity for the Marines and they learned as much as they could from their United Kingdom allies.
"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity," commented Marine Capt. Steve Schreiber, a Harrier pilot with VMA-542. "It was a great experience and it was great to help them."
Schreiber said Marine harriers were on hand to fill in for the Royal Navy's harriers, which are currently serving in Afghanistan.
Schreiber said it was interesting being on board the Royal Navy carrier because, unlike the U.S. carriers, squadrons were responsible for almost all of the aircraft's maintenance and refueling.
Schreiber, Cooper and Gill agree that joint training is essential in the global war on terrorism.
"It's important to familiarize ourselves with other forces," added Schreiber.
"We've been learning how the American forces communicate and trying to understand your operations," said Gill.
Cooper gave this message to his American counterparts on Truman.
"We may be smaller, but we're nonetheless as willing and earnest to do every job alone or with you," said Cooper.
Schreiber gave this message to his UK friends on the Illustrious.
"You guys have worked hard and it was a job well done," said Schreiber.
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