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Thursday, March 3, 2011

MV-22s and Libya: Right Aircraft for the Job

By Andrew Drwiega, Military Editor

When will the outdated critics of the V-22 Osprey realize that the world has moved on and their protestation are out of touch with the real world. ‘Wake up and smell the coffee!’
Just look at the current crisis in Libya. The constant running of video clips on news broadcaster CNN clearly show a deck full of MV-22s on the USS Kearsage—a ship whose primary mission as described by the U.S. Navy is ‘the deployment, landing and support of a Marine landing force anywhere in the world’—an assault by air and sea.
With Defense Secretary Robert Gates one of those considering if and how to implement a no-fly zone to prevent the Libya Air Force from bombing its own people, potentially a first strike, and then following up with humanitarian support conducted through the Marine Corps, the positioning of the USS Kearsage shows that the U.S. commanders completely believe that the capability it brings is exactly what is called for in this situation—over the horizon rapid transit of troops and supplies in a littoral operation.
Should the U.S. decide to opt for a no-fly zone and back that up with military sea-based air power, the MV-22 has both the speed and range to ensure rapid ship-to-shore operations while allowing the fleet to remain at a distance from any Libyan Air Force threat that could initially be present.
The U.S. Marine Corps deployed MV-22 Squadrons into Iraq over an 18-month period, and since the drawdown MV-22-equipped squadrons have been rotating through Afghanistan ever since (not forgetting the U.S. Air Force’s CV-22’s, either). This writer has embedded with USMC MV-22 tiltrotor squadrons both in Iraq and Afghanistan and can confirm that the aircraft is treated as just another asset that the Corps can call on to do a job of work. The aircraft has now flown through the rigorous conditions in both of those operational deployments, through the unbearable heat of the summer and cold of the winter, at sea level and in the unforgiving mountains, it has also impressed military allies and indigenous military forces and national governments. It is as much a part of the team as the AV/8B Harrier that it shares deck space with—and now it is ready to be used as part of ‘the Team’ in exactly the environment for which it was originally designed.

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