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04-13-07, 07:55 PM #1
Marines will deploy V-22 Osprey aircraft to Iraq
Posted on Fri, Apr. 13, 2007
Marines will deploy V-22 Osprey aircraft to Iraq
By Dave Montgomery
WASHINGTON - A Marine Corps aviation squadron known as the Thunder Chickens will head to Iraq in September to introduce the Bell-Boeing V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft to combat, ferrying troops and cargo across a turbulent province known as the heart of the country's Sunni Muslim insurgency.
Ten V-22 Ospreys will be based at the al Assad Marine Corps air station in Anbar province after the 171-member Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, or VMM 263, lands in Iraq next fall. The unit has been training for more than a year out of its home base at New River Marine Corps Air Station, N.C.
Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps, announced the time and date of the first V-22 deployment at a Pentagon briefing Friday, joining other Marine officials and V-22 boosters in expressing confidence that the aircraft has fully resolved the problems of a troubled past and is ready for war.
After the announcement, members of the news media were taken to a Marine base at Quantico, Va., for a test ride aboard an Osprey.
The aircraft, co-produced by Bell Helicopter Textron of Fort Worth, Texas, and Boeing Rotorcraft Systems in Ridley Township, Pa., takes off and lands like a helicopter and flies like an airplane, reaching speeds and distances well beyond those of traditional helicopters.
The aircraft program has struggled to survive at times and was grounded for 18 months after two fatal crashes in 2000. Critics continue to question the Osprey's suitability for combat, but the Pentagon announcement Friday constituted an unqualified endorsement of its airworthiness after an extensive redesign and more than 19,000 hours of flight tests.
"We think we can add a lot to the fight," said Lt. Col. Paul J. Rock Jr., the commander of the Thunder Chickens, a nickname passed down from a predecessor squadron. Rock's unit was designated as the first combat V-22 squadron last year but learned of the specific assignment only about three weeks ago, he said.
The squadron, which represents the first wave of V-22 combat deployments, will be based in a hard-to-control province with more than 1 million Iraqis, a defiant Sunni insurgency and onetime hot spots such as Fallujah and Ramadi. At one point, military officials expressed doubts about their chances for success in the province, but analysts said conditions appeared to be improving in recent months.
Seven helicopters have been destroyed and others damaged during the war, Marine officials said Friday. But Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, the deputy commander for Marine Corps Aviation, said the Osprey was far more agile than the CH-46, which it was replacing, and could fly high enough to escape missiles or arms fire.
The V-22 - known as an MV-22 in the Marine Corps - is designed to ferry 24 Marines at a time or haul up to 20,000 pounds of cargo at more than 250 mph, twice as fast as the Vietnam-era CH-46.
"It's harder to shoot a rabbit that's running than one that's sitting still," Castellaw said.
The Marines plan to buy 360 V-22s. The Navy is slated for 48 and the Air Force Special Operations Command will buy 50.
"This is one of the most important events in the history of the program," Bell spokesman Bob Leder said. "We're very enthusiastic."
Flying an Osprey is considered an elite assignment. The Thunder Chickens' 28 pilots, including two women, all volunteered and were chosen by a Marine Corps selection board. Rock, 40, who goes by the call sign "Rocket," has been flying V-22s since the late 1990s.
The VMM 263 descends from the original Thunder Chickens helicopter squadron, the HMM 263, which dates to the Korean War era. The earlier squadron and its fleet of CH-46 "Sea Knight" helicopters were phased out last year to make way for the new tilt-rotor unit, which was commissioned March 3. Eventually all six CH-46 squadrons at New River will become tilt-rotor units.
The colorful nickname apparently evolved from a linguistic miscue. According to unit lore, the squadron initially was called the Thunder Eagles, but the name got mistranslated in Vietnam and the new moniker stuck.
04-13-07, 10:30 PM #2
Im sorry Marines I have a real bad feeling about this bird and I hope that we dont see alot of crash and burns. Its performance has not been stellar here and I just dont see it getting any better in a combat environment. I still communicate with some of our pups that became Marines and are in this unit and they tell me its a good bird and everything is fixed. But Im sorry I just have a very bad feeling about it. I do wish them a successful deployment and God Speed.
No better friend/No worse enemy
04-14-07, 06:40 AM #3
10 Ospreys will go to Iraq in September with Marines
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Ten new V-22 Ospreys will be in Iraq for combat by September, the Marine Corps said Friday.
Built by Boeing Co. and Bell, a unit of Textron Inc., the planes' deployment marks a significant reversal for an aircraft program that was nearly scrapped after two deadly test crashes and a history of mechanical failures.
The medium-size, tilt-rotor plane, which takes off vertically like a helicopter and flies likes a plane, replaces the CH-46 Sea Knight, a 39-year-old assault helicopter used in the Vietnam War.
Demonstrated to reporters at Quantico Marine Corps Base, Va., on Friday, the Osprey can travel twice as fast and three times farther than the Sea Knight. The planes, equipped with radar, lasers and a missile defense system, each carries 24 combat-ready Marines and will accompany attack helicopters in Iraq, which come under gunfire and mortar attacks.
"The V-22 will be able to fly above the threat," said Lt. Gen. Castellaw, deputy commandant for Marine Aviation. "It's harder to shoot a rabbit that's running than one that is sitting still. We're talking about the ability to climb altitude outside of the heart of the threat over there."
Commandment of the Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway said 171 Marines will accompany the Ospreys set for September deployment to Al-Asad Airfield, the second largest air base in Iraq, located more than 100 miles west of Baghdad.
Castellaw rejected concerns that the Osprey might not be safe, emphasizing that it had been extensively tested and was fully operational.
In April 2000, 19 Marines died when their V-22 crashed in Marana, north of Tucson. The accident was blamed partly on human error and mechanical problems.
Then, in December 2000, four more Marines died in a crash in North Carolina because of a hydraulic malfunction.
Shares of Boeing fell 15 cents to $90.88 in after-market trading, after it rose 18 cents to close at $91.03 on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. Textron shares dropped 65 cents to $93.69 in after-market trading, after it rose $1.96, or 2.1 percent, to close at $94.34, also on the NYSE.
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