V-22s Got Dirty in Anbar: Responding to criticism that the MV-22's first combat deployment to Iraq was a softball and that the aircraft flew mostly VIP delegations around, Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly said yesterday he put the Osprey into the fight when he led the Marines of Multi National Force-West and it proved its worth in western Iraq. "Because it zips around the way it does, it was doing a lot more VIP lifting than I thought it should be doing," Kelly told defense reporters in Washington, D.C. and added, "So I took it out of the VIP business." Kelly, who is now deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said he wanted to get the MV-22 "into the dirt" because of its speed, comparatively low noise level, and its ability to get above small arms and missile threats quickly. "It's very quiet relative to a helicopter, so the bad guys are not drawn to its arrival," he said. The Osprey's availability numbers, hovering around 65 percent when Kelly arrived in theater, rose to 85 percent by the time he left earlier this year. He said that was due to the maintainers' increasing knowledge of how to sustain the aircraft in the desert. Kelly said the MV-22 will likely be used in Afghanistan as well. The CH-46 helicopter has a lighter capacity in the summer than in the winter and is "very, very limited" in certain environments, while the Osprey has the speed and lift to be more flexible in the high-hot climate of Afghanistan, he said.
Osprey Left Its Mark: Maintaining order and security across Iraq's largest province, Anbar, which includes the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, was a difficult task for the Marines of Multi National Force-West several years ago, says Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the unit's former commander. But the arrival of MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft in late 2007 made a difference in being able to cover the more than 50,000 square miles of desert, Kelly told reporters during a meeting yesterday in Washington, D.C. "I could dominate that place, because I had, frankly, V-22s which are an amazing, amazing capability," he said and added, "I couldn't do what I did with just helicopters." Kelly, who served three tours in Iraq and is now deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif., also said intelligence-surveillance-
reconnaissance forces were critical in helping to turn the tide in the once-restive Iraqi province. Tracking the insurgent cells that produced and laid improvised explosive devices with overhead assets like F/A-18 Hornets and unmanned aerial vehicles helped to crack the cells, proving more valuable than just striking the insurgents each time they appeared, he said.
I've often wondered about the efficacy of the MV-22 in a combat environment. They seem vulnerable to me, but that's speaking from the MOST uninformed viewpoint possible... as in: "I could put what I know about the Osprey in my right eye and it wouldn't even water." That said... Occasional Reader and commenter JimmyT reinforced my opinion in comments a while back, offering up that there's a LOT of composite construction in the MV-22 and precious little armor, other than around the cockpit area. And no self-defense armament (guns), either, although we hear that's being worked on.
Still and even... I'm really excited about seeing the first of the USAF V-22s at Cannon in a year or two. There's just something about those birds that get my juices flowing.
(Image from Defense Industry Daily)