RAF MILDENHALL, England -- The 352nd Special Operations Group resurrected a key capability when two CV-22B Ospreys touched down June 24 here. The Ospreys are the first of 10 slated to arrive as part of the 352nd SOG expansion, which will last through the end of 2014. The CV-22 fills part of the role previously accomplished by the MH-53 Pave Low helicopter. However, it combines the vertical takeoff, hover and vertical-landing qualities of a helicopter with the long-range, fuel-efficiency and speed of a turboprop aircraft.
This new acquisition to the 7th Special Operations Squadron enhances the unit's ability to rapidly respond across greater distances. "It brings a new capability to the (European Command) theater that hasn't really been here for a while, and I think that was when the MH-53 (Pave Low) departed, the vertical lift piece of this departed with it," said Lt. Col. Chris Goodyear, the 7th SOS director of operations. The CV-22's arrival here further solidifies the enduring partnership between U.S. and U.K. forces. Forged out of the need to unite during World War II, U.S. and U.K. forces formed a bond that has stood the test of time.
The 352nd SOG expansion allows the two countries to continue working together while benefitting from more modernized equipment and additional personnel. Being stationed in the U.K. simply allows U.S. forces to work with their coalition counterparts and train in an overseas environment. "The arrival of the new aircraft is the next chapter in a 70-year historical relationship the U.S. and the U.K. share," said Col. Christopher Ireland, the 352nd SOG commander. "While this is a new airframe, we are still operating under the same parameters previously set by Her Majesty's government. We are partners with the Ministry of Defence and follow U.K. aircraft regulations and restrictions. We set high standards for our people, and we are committed to being good neighbors."
The 7th SOS executes night, adverse-weather, long-range insertion, extraction and resupply operations. The squadron can also support noncombatant evacuation and humanitarian relief.
The aircraft's speed allows it to reach its objectives faster than its predecessor and is a proven combat asset. In addition, when in airplane mode, the aircraft is quieter than other rotary wing aircraft, which is beneficial when over hostile territory. "It gives you access to places that you normally wouldn't have with a fixed wing aircraft," Goodyear said. "The unique thing about the CV-22, unlike our rotary wing partners, is it has the speed of a fixed wing platform. So you kind of get the blend of the best of both worlds. You have the speed of a fixed wing, and you have the vertical lift capability of a helicopter." The arrival of the CV-22 marks the start of a new chapter in an enduring partnership, but also is the dawn of a new era in which modernization and increased capabilities are a reality for 352nd SOG Airmen.