I've been getting a lot of feedback on the Osprey post from Wednesday, which "speculates" on the Marines' deployment to Afghanistan, and particularly why the service refuses to talk on the record about it in detail.
Well, I've got a little more "informed speculation" on the deployment from a variety of sources and I thought I'd throw them out to DT readers for their pass.
There may be a couple other reasons for why the Corps can't or won't talk about the details of the deployment...first of all, let's get one thing straight: all indicators are that the 22 MEU, which has 10 MV-22s from VMM-263 (the squadron I embedded with in Afghanistan) will chop their birds to 261 for the deployment. It's pretty weak sauce that the Corps can't fly 261's planes from CONUS to Afghanistan -- the MV-22 is touted as being "self-deployable"...but I'll admit it would be a LONG, grueling series of flights to do that.
Renting an amphib to ship them over would probably give the Navy heart palpitations on the costs -- so that's a no go after the political pressure of the "first" deployment is gone (remember, they shipped 263's planes to Kuwait via a solo-mission amphib for the Osprey's first ever deployment).
So let's agree that the Ospreys are coming from the MEU. I'll betcha fleet commanders are loath to admit that they'll be losing all the ERG's medium lift capability, so they'd prefer not to broadcast that fact too widely (though I think that's a pretty weak argument too since they'll have 53s to execute any contingency ops).
There's also the potential CENTCOM angle. In order to get the Ospreys into Helmand, they'd have to fly over Pakistan. Now, it's one thing to fly KCs and fighters over Pakistan at high altitude, but the Ospreys will have to fly well within visual range of some civvies who might not take too kindly to their airspace being used by US forces to eventually help kill Talibs. Maybe CENTCOM hasn't finished a deal with Pakistan for overflight rights?
Anyway, I'm hearing indicators that jibe with DT commenter "Ed" insofaras Gates might have pushed this announcement ahead of the Corps' readiness to talk about it. Get the damned thing over there, already! he's saying. Well, let's do it.
PS -- Am still trying to line up a more detailed interview on this but all indicators are that the Remote Guardian system will be retrofitted to the Ospreys in-country.