A few weeks, ago, when the V-22 Osprey's program manager mentioned the prospects for potential international customers, he didn't want to name any names. But here's one candidate: The Israeli Air Force, which sent a team to spend some quality tiltrotor time down at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.
We missed the Marines' announcement about this last week, but it was rounded up in Tuesday's edition of Air Force Magazine's Daily Report. Although it makes clear "there is no procurement process on the table," it also makes the Israelis sound very interested in the V-22.
The first IAF visit, May 16-26, was conducted by Lt. Col. Nimrod Golan, a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot, and Lt. Col. Avi Carmeli, a CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter pilot and Navy graduate test pilot, both with the Israeli Air Force. That was followed June 13-23 by a seven-man team led by Golan and Carmeli.The story goes on to describe how one of the Israeli pilots even flew an Osprey during a mid-air refueling. So will the Marines' guests go back home and tell their chain of command to start buying V-22s? The announcement doesn't say, but the Marines probably hope that after so many test drives at the showroom, the Israelis decide they like this model.
"An invitation came from the Marines to the Israeli Air Force to explore this aircraft and though currently, there is no procurement process on the table, we were very happy to follow this invitation," said Golan. "We are looking at the aircraft, trying to understand how the Osprey can contribute to our operational requirements and also have an understanding of its implementation. In addition, this is a great opportunity to enhance our relationship and cooperation with the Marines."
The Israeli pilots spent their first visit with Marines of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204 gaining an overall familiarization of the Osprey and examining its capabilities related to reducing the risks to pilots, aircrews and passengers on the battlefield. The overall intent of the visit was to learn about MV-22 systems and performance, and to become "well oriented" with the aircraft.
"In order to be prepared for our June visit, we had to get some basic knowledge and basic skills, which is what '204 gave us," said Golan. "We were exposed for the first time to this technology called tiltrotor, and not just exposed academically ... it was an amazing experience."
Their second visit, with Marine Tiltrotor Test and Evaluation Squadron 22 and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, "... was the core of the whole evaluation process," said Golan, as the Israelis looked more deeply into the aircraft's capabilities and maintenance process. "We conducted a variety of flights in order to operationally evaluate the aircraft. We got the tools the last time we were here," said Golan. "Now we are flying to learn to operate."
One more thing: These two Norwegian soldiers seemed to enjoy their flight on an Osprey, too.