Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Osprey Faring Well in Iraq

After a troubled history, the V-22 Osprey has been ferrying troops and equipment across Iraq for just over a year without a major incident. Critics say the Osprey, which was designed to replace transport helicopters, lacks firepower for defense in heavy combat. But pilots say the Osprey makes up for that in speed, which one of them says can take the plane "like a bat out of hell" to altitudes safe from small-arms fire.

Since arriving at Asad Air Base in western Iraq, 12 Ospreys have been ferrying troops and equipment at forward operating bases. One even took Barack Obama around during his tour of the country earlier this year.

But on only a handful of occasions has the aircraft faced any serious enemy fire. Military officials say this is partly a result of the changing nature of the war in Iraq as well as the advantages the high-flying Osprey has over the Vietnam-era Sea Knight helicopters they will eventually replace. The Osprey also avoids day flights into Baghdad or other tasks that entail excessive risk. "It's not the same World War II tactics that we used to deal with, or even Vietnam tactics," said Maj. Paul Kopacz, who led two Ospreys on a recent mission to Fallujah. "We have not been battle-tested because we aren't going guns blazing into hot zones. Our nation is now too sensitive to the loss of soldiers to let that happen."

The V-22 has won wide support from the Marines flying the machine in Iraq since September 2007, even among those with long experience as pilots of the CH-46 Sea Knight. "I used to fly the CH-46 and we couldn't do nearly what we do now in terms of weight, cargo, distance or speed," said Lt. Col. Christopher Seymour. He and the other pilots at Asad say they've noticed the Osprey's advantages most. It can travel twice as fast and three times farther than the Sea Knight, is equipped with radar, lasers and a missile defense system, and soars at altitudes far above its 39-year-old predecessor.

Maj. Andreas Lavato conceded that the Osprey's lack of firepower - it has only a 7.62 mm machine gun at its rear, one fewer weapon than the Sea Knight - caused skepticism initially. But he insisted that speed and elevation were more important, as the Ospreys are largely avoiding descents into "hot zones" or violent areas unprepared by aircraft more geared for attack. "Nobody sees us and you have to see something to shoot it," Lavato said. "If I'm coming into a situation I can just leave and get from 0 to 200 knots in about 10 seconds. I'm just gone."

Maj. Kopacz said people can hear a helicopter from 10 miles away. "You can't hear us until two miles away," he said, "and we're coming fast."

Source: Military.com / AP

3 comments:

Civilian Overseer said...

Boringggg!, I remember a time when this blog was interesting, Hey you, Lt.Col, knock it up a notch, will ya!

Lt. Colonel Creedon said...

Screw you! This post is sandwiched between a thrilling threequel trailer and a convoluted controversial confabulation both highly interesting in their respective ways.
If I feel it's time to let everyone know I was right about the Osprey from day one then I'll take every opportunity.

Civilian Overseer said...

You wish!, I can't believe I have to explain, yet again, that I'm just not interested Lt.Col, I'm just not that way inclined. It's time to put your mancrush aside, Get over it, move on. ;)

Osprey, Snoooze....., what now?, the Osprey?, so dreadfully, dreadfully bored.