Osprey Deployment Nears

Air Force Special Operations Command has “put a marker on the table” and anticipates sending the first of its CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft into Southwest Asia by late September or early October, the command’s requirements chief tells the Daily Report. “We are finding out that it is a transformational weapon system … so we are in a hurry to get it into the fight,” Brig. Gen. Brad Heithold said in an Aug. 11 interview. (Earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, AFSOC commander, indicated he thought the aircraft would be ready for combat operations ahead of schedule.) Heithold said AFSOC believes that it will have adequate aircrew capability to effectively deploy, since the 8th Special Operations Squadron now has five CV-22s with six full crews and more assets and personnel coming. US Special Operations Command and the Air Force earlier this year advocated an accelerated CV-22 delivery schedule and Congress obliged by including five CV-22s in the Fiscal 2008 war supplemental. Heithold noted that AFSOC now anticipates the delivery of the 50th airframe by Fiscal 2015 instead of Fiscal 2017 to complete the current program of record. And, the Air Force has moved the procurement schedule to the left a bit, now purchasing a total of 10 airframes in 2008 (five in the regular budget and five in the supplemental), six in 2009, eight each in 2010 and 2011, six in 2012, and the remainder in 2013 to conclude the buy. The CV-22 requirement may grow beyond 50 aircraft at some point, Heithold said. “The growth on the ground side … will cause a re-look on the exact size needed,” he said. (For more from Heithold, read Filling the Gunship Gap)