Although the Osprey bird nests ashore, there are several at sea as this item is written. The U.S. Air force has just conducted carrier operations aboard the large helicopter/VSTOL carrier Bataan(LHD 5) with their CV-22 variant of the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Belonging to the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlbert Field, Florida, the Air Force CV-22s are configured to support Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and other special forces.
The carrier ops went off without a hitch. According to Lieutenant Colonel Ted Carallo, the commanding officer of the squadron, the real thing was easier than the simulator training. According to Air Force Magazine on-line, a greater challenge than the actual flying was getting the squadron and ship schedules to mesh.
Earlier this year the Air Force CV-22s conducted operations with Navy SEALs. The Air Force is procuring 50 CV-22 aircraft for the special operations role.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Marine Corps has dispatched ten MV-22 Ospreys to Iraq for combat operations. Those aircraft are also at sea, being transported aboard the helicopter/VSTOL carrier Wasp (LHD 1). Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 has sailed aboard the Wasp with ten MV-22s and 171 personnel. A Marine spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Curtis Hill, explained that moving the aircraft by ship rather than flying them to Iraq with stopovers and in-flight refuelings will save wear and tear on the airplane [and] will also allow time to do shipboard integration operations. That will help us down the road as we look to integrate them with the [Marine expeditionary units].
The method of returning squadron VMM-263 to the United States after its seven-month deployment has not been decided. The squadron is based at the Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.
The Marine Corps currently has more than 40 MV-22s in service with several hundred being procured to replace the CH-46E Sea Knight, a helicopter whose service dates from the Vietnam era, and the CH-53D Sea Stallion, of the same period. The Marine aircraft can carry up to 24 troops or can carry a large cargo load by external sling. It can fly twice as fast and twice as high as the CH-46, and has three to five times the range, depending upon payload. A single 7.62-mm machine gun is fitted to the rear door/ramp of the aircraft in the MV-22 configuration.
A Navy plan to procure the V-22 as a combat search-and-rescue aircraft has been dropped. Early studies also looked at an SV-22 anti-submarine variant and an EV-22 airborne early warning aircraft.