V-22 = F-22?

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Some of the sharpest minds -- and least partisan -- on defense issues in Washington spoke during a conference with media and other military experts yesterday on where they believed the Army, Marine Corps and Special Operations forces should go in the coming years in terms of organization, equipment and strategy.

It was an incredibly interesting series of talks from the folks at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and brought up a number of key issues and recommendations that in some cases jibe with what those services/organizations are already doing and forged some new ground on how the key players in the GWOT should better shed the idea of "next war-itis."

We'll be rolling out their recommendations over the next couple days here and at DoD Buzz, but I wanted to throw this one out there at the outset to get the pot stirred a bit.

Both Dakota Wood and Robert Martinage -- who spoke about the Marine Corps force posture and that of the Spec Ops community, respectively -- called for a reduction of the MV-22 buy for the Marine Corps and a recognition that the Osprey couldn't satisfy the Spec Ops aviation shortfall.

Like the Air Force's F-22, the Osprey has become a bit of a raison d'etre for the Marine Corps, which staunchly supports the aircraft as a replacement for all of its CH-46 fleet. Wood argued that the cost was simply too much for the aircraft given other pressing, high-dollar Marine Corps programs coming in the future, reset, an expanded force and any number of contingencies the service will face. And, oh by the way, does anyone think the financial meltdown and the government's bailouts will slow down in the next couple of years?

If the Air Force is going to have to rethink its F-22 buy, why shouldn't the Marine Corps do the same thing with its MV-22 plans for similar reasons?

Recognizing the Osprey has its advantages in flying farther, faster and higher than anything in its class, Wood said the service needs to buy some MV-22s for missions that fit that kind of profile. But he added his voice to a growing chorus of experts who say it's time to scale back the buy and look to a rotary wing replacement that cheaper and more available than the Osprey to do those short hop chores the MV-22 is simply too expensive to justify doing.

Martinage made an interesting point that as spec ops forces push further and further into FID and UW missions in hard to reach corners of the world, sourcing spare parts for the CV-22 when the thing goes TangoUniform will be a deal breaker. He argued that anywhere an Osprey can go, a fleet of C-27s, U-28s and long-range helos can go -- with less risk of spare parts sources and overall O&M costs.

It's the hard, cold reality of it, but these guys aren't haters of the Osprey, they're just trying to give the best recommended solutions to critical problems in a severely fiscally constrained environment. It's good food for thought.

-- Christian

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