More on Osprey Ops

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.osprey-bataan.jpg

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.

-- Norman Polmar

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