More on the Osprey in Afghanistan


We're running an excellent piece on today from an embedded reporter who spent time with VMM-261 in Afghanistan. He writes on the air assault mission conducted with MV-22s the other day -- Cobra's Anger -- and how it fits into the overall narrative of the program and its track record.

The Osprey squadron mainly has been moving troops and supplies between various bases. In Iraq, this duty led some critics to belittle it as no more than a fabulously expensive flying bus.

The squadron's commander, Lt. Col. Anthony Bianca of Huntsville, Ala., 42, laughed at that, saying it made no sense to criticize the Osprey for taking on its designated role.

"Yes, we're moving people and yes, we're moving supplies, that's what medium lift does," he said.

In Afghanistan, though, where distances can be much greater than Iraq, the additional speed and range it offers will boost what the Marines and other units can do.

For one thing, it will allow them to react to information about the enemy much quicker.

The aircraft is so fast, in fact, that it can sometimes make two trips back and forth in the time it takes a helicopter to make one trip.

That capability came into play Friday in the Now Zad operation, as the aircraft made several trips to deliver troops, [Marine spokesman] Pelletier said.

The article also brings up the issue of the Remote Guardian gun system, claiming the underbelly weapon is being retrofitted at Leatherneck as we write. And the Corps has changed the rear-mounted M240 7.62 machine gun to a .50cal.

I also got a note from my good friend Winslow Wheeler, dive bombing my earlier post on the Osprey at war and arguing the bird really hasn't been tested until it's been in a hot LZ, so the Corps can't really claim success with Cobra's Anger.

Look, I understand where Winslow and his fellow Osprey critics are coming from with this argument, but I keep coming back to one main point: if the Corps was dropping Ospreys into hot LZs then someone f-ed up in the planning. It would be just plain stupid to do that, so it's unfair to criticize the operations of the MV-22 based on that.

How does Winslow think the CH-47 -- much less the AH-64 Apache -- did during Operation Anaconda? And after that performance, who in their right mind would land in an LZ like that, much less plan for it?

We'll keep you posted on this as more news comes out about the Ospreys in the Stan...

-- Christian

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