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Osprey on the Way

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Our friend Dave Montgomery has a story about the Osprey's first deployment in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer:

The first combat squadron of tilt-rotor V-22 Ospreys hasquietly set off to Iraq, ushering a new and controversial form of aerial technology into 21st-century warfare. A Marine Corps aviation squadron and 10 Ospreys sailed for Iraq on Monday aboard a small Navy aircraft carrier known as an amphibious assault ship, said a Marine Corps spokesman, Maj. Eric Dent.

The USS Wasp's departure from the New River Marine Corps Air Station near Jacksonville, N.C., was made under tight security with no advance public notice and no ceremonial speeches by Marine Corps officials. "It was just another workday for the squadron," Dent said.Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, nicknamed "The Thunder Chickens," will be based at the Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq for at least seven months of combat operations.

The Marine Corps Ospreys, known as MV-22s, will be used to ferry Marines as well as cargo throughout the predominantly Sunni Anbar province. Dent, citing "operational security," offered limited details about the deployment and said he was not allowed to discuss the timetable of the trip or scheduled arrival in Iraq. The V-22s could conceivably leave the Wasp en route and fly the rest of the way.

The "rest of the way" is presumably whatever distance remains once the Wasp inchops to the Persian Gulf . . . a couple hundred miles at best (or worst).

DT readers will remember the discussion here months ago about whether or not VMM-263 would "self deploy," which is to say, fly over with tanker support. A Boeing official told us that after the program's experience translanting two airplanes to the Farnborough Air Show -- with one having to divert to Iceland enroute -- the powers that be elected to use the traditional "fly aboard the amphib" method to get the squadron to theater.

Godspeed to the "Thunder Chickens." We'll be watching with great interest.

-- Ward

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