I just got back from a briefing at the Pentagon with Col. Kevin Vest, who is the commander of Marine aviation over in Afghanistan and Lt. Gen. George Trautman, the deputy commandant for aviation. We posted a story this morning on Military.com about a commando raid early this AM conducted by Marine Force Reconnaissance troops and Afghan commandos near Marjah. I have a few more details to reveal from my conversation with Gen. Trautman and Col. Vest on that mission.
First of all, this marks one of the first operational uses of the MV-22 Osprey during the Marjah campaign. Vest said he'd held the Ospreys back as a QRF in case the Taliban tried to make trouble in far off spots of the AO while 4,000 Marines were committed to Marjah. The only other high profile time the Osprey had been used during the operation -- which is in day four -- was to extract civilians bodies killed in an errant HIMARS strike from the town during a daylight mission. That's the one where an Osprey came under fire from RPGs and small arms.
For the raid this morning, which took place at 0200 Afghan time, a group of 120 Force Recon and Afghan National Army troops were inserted by three MV-22s in two waves into an "enemy controlled area" to serve as a blocking force for 3/6. The ACE for that raid included Harriers, Hueys and Cobras and a variety of UAVs and C2 platforms to count bad guy heads and keep them down.
The ACE in Afghanistan has a compliment of 10 Ospreys, but will soon receive two more from the squadron attached to the 24th MEU which helped out in Haiti. Those MV-22s will fly from the Red Sea when the MEU moves out of the Suez all the way to Afghanistan making one refueling stop, Trautman said.
Also, Kit Up has learned that three of the Ospreys in theater have the BAE Systems Remote Guardian underbelly gun system, with two more yet to be installed. Trautman said the Corps had received $30 million to buy more. Vest added that the gun hasn't yet been fired in anger.