Sorry folks, been on vacation with my family for a few days, but back up now...
On Friday I attended a press conference at the Pentagon -- I called it an end zone dance -- where the Marine Corps talked about its successful deployment to Iraq with its first Osprey squadron.
They've already replaced the VMM-263 with another squadron and the press conference -- which surprisingly lasted about an hour -- was pretty standard stuff.
One thing that the Corps' chief of aviation Lt. Gen. George Trautman said was that the service "had an all-aspect, all-quadrant weapon system" on the Osprey "since the very beginning."
"The reason we don't have an all-aspect gun on this platform is because it's hard to do. Okay? So it's more than just weight with regard to the chin gun.
"I've got a lot of time flying Cobras, and the Cobra is the only helicopter in the Marine Corps that has a forward-firing gun. It is not an easy proposition, even in the Cobra.
Well, SOCOM said the same thing, and it looks like they're getting what they want. BAE Systems has developed an underbelly gun for the spec ops version of the Osprey. And though some claim the mechanism makes the V-22s cargo cabin tighter, Trautman had positive things to say about the design and its ability to track the entire circumference of flight.
"The system that we're looking at now, with the Special Operations Command, is an all-aspect weapon that would be mounted in the belly of the aircraft.
"I actually have a better degree of confidence about this than I've had about any other approach that we've taken. And if it comes out the way that we hope that it will come out -- and I actually have some degree of confidence that it will -- Special Operations Command will have this all-aspect weapon mounted, and they intend to deploy with it early in the fall.
And that brings up another interesting point...So is AFSoc going to deploy with the Osprey in the Fall of '08? There's some rumor that SOCOM wants to deploy with the bird early, so was Trautman showing SOCOM's hand?
We can rehash the whole argument over why the Corps left an all-aspect gun out of their current design, but in the end, it sure goes against the Marines' culture to leave one off. As VMM-263 CO Lt. Col. Paul Rock said:
"Well, I mean, never ask a Marine if you wouldn't want more guns on his airplane. I mean, you know, that's kind of, I mean, more guns is good."