Osprey squadron ready for special ops
The CV-22, the special operations version of the controversial Osprey tiltrotor, is now ready to take on combat missions for the first time.
Capt. Laura Ropelis, an Air Force Special Operations Command spokeswoman, confirmed that the first CV-22 squadron was certified “initial operation capable” as of this month. Translated into plain English, that means the CV-22 can now be employed effectively as a weapons system (and that “full” capability may be declared further down the road).
It’s a milestone that’s been almost thirty years in the making. The requirements for the CV-22 emerged in part from the lessons of Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue hostages from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The CV-22 is customized for commando missions (long-range infiltration, extraction and resupply) and can fly much farther and faster than any helicopter. In theory, an Osprey-type aircraft would have allowed planners to attempt the mission in one pass, rather than orchestrating the complex landing-and-refueling mission that led to the debacle at Desert One.
The special operations community has already put the new machines through their paces in exercises. The aircraft also took part in a real-world operation, assisting the Coast Guard last year in a freighter rescue during Hurricane Ike; Ospreys of Air Force Special Operations Command also took part in Flintlock 2008, a joint military exercise in West Africa last November.
Incidentally, the Marine Corps version of the bird, the MV-22, has already seen service in Iraq and western Africa; the Marines are now weighing whether to send the aircraft to Afghanistan later this year.
In November of last year, Air Force CV-22s took part in Flintlock 2008, a joint exercise in Bamako, Mali. Operating in the trans-Sahara region required covering some pretty vast distances, so the Osprey – which can fly farther and faster than a helicopter – proved its value.
The Marine Corps version of the bird, the MV-22, made its combat debut in Iraq in 2007; while that deployment was generally been a public relations success, the aircraft have seen an unexpected amount of wear and tear on their engines.
This was the first Flintlock exercise being overseen by U.S. Africa Command, the U.S. military’s controversial new headquarters for the African continent.