Osprey. Period.

ospreyears.jpgI just got off the flight line from a day aboard "Steadfast 04," an MV-22 Osprey from the New River, N.C.-based Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 deployed here at al Asad air base in Iraq. I'm putting together a longer story about my day and interviews I had with crew, maintainers and commanders with the squadron, but here are my preliminary impressions.

You ride one, you'll never want to go back to anything else. Period.

It just so happened that my flight from Fallujah to al Asad was on an Osprey. I was jammed in there with about ten other pax, their gear and a box full of supplies they call "tri-walls" for their three-ply cardboard construction. The guy next to me was a SEAL who's working here training Iraqi army troops. It was his first time on an Osprey.

Shouting over the engine noise, I asked him what he thought. He beamed a huge smile and gave a hardy thumbs up. Then he told me...

"I've ridden on CH-53s about five times before...it takes forEVER," he shouted as we sped across the blackened desert. That three-engined beast is really the only thing comparable in this AO to the Osprey (the Army's CH-47 is a good comparison too) but the MV-22 blows the Super Stallion out of the water in this medium lift role.

The performance of the Osprey compared to the helicopter it's replacing -- the CH-46 Sea Knight -- is like night and day. The most dramatic thing you notice here in a "combat" environment is the extreme altitude gain and loss the MV-22 can pull. It literally jumps off the landing pad and within seconds goes nose high and skyrockets to anywhere between 5,000 and 9,500 feet. The pull up and nose down to the LZ can be so jarring you think you're going to fall out the back...and the pressure on your ears is borderline painful.

"Make sure their heads aren't exploding," said Steadfast 04 co-pilot, Capt. Lee York, to his crew chief, Gunnery Sgt. Mike Brodeur.

"They're okay, sir," came Brodeur's voice over the intercom as he surveyed the wide-eyed Marines sitting along the Osprey's bulkhead.

My ears still haven't come back to normal.

-- Christian

(Cross-posted at my "From the Front" blog.) Show Full Article

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