The U.S. Air Force is deploying its first CV-22 Osprey aircraft to Africa next month, according to Air Force Special Operations Command officials.
The aircraft will participate in Flintlock 09, an exercise in the trans-Saharan region of the continent intended to help African nations patrol their own territory, according to a command statement. With poor road systems and vast distances to travel on the continent, the Bell-Boeing CV-22 is seen as well suited to provide the speed and reach needed for such missions.
These missions will employ the CV-22's unique defenses and terrain-following radar, and will differ starkly from those of the Marine Corps, which is operating the MV-22 in western Iraq.
Air Force Special Operations Command currently has nine CV-22s in its young fleet, including five here at Hurlburt (with a sixth expected soon) and four at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. for training, says Brig. Gen. Bradley Heithold, the command's director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments.
The CV-22 recently completed the initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) period, and a final report is being written. However, command officials wanted to press the aircraft into service as soon as possible to support activities abroad. Meanwhile, the last MH-53 Pave Low helicopter, the CV-22's predecessor, is retiring this month. CV-22 initial operational capability is expected next year.
The aircraft will also deploy with the Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures (SIRFC) defensive system.