Thursday, August 09, 2007

Official: Ospreys to reach Iraq by ship

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Aug 8, 2007 18:21:32 EDT

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — The MV-22 squadron heading out for the Osprey’s first combat deployment next month will get to Iraq the old-fashioned way — the Navy.

Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 will sail aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp, a II Marine Expeditionary Force spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

“It’ll save wear and tear on the airplane,” Lt. Col. Curtis Hill said. “This will also allow time to do shipboard integration operations. That will help us down the road as we look to integrate them with the [Marine expeditionary units].”

“The method for returning them has not yet been decided,” Hill said.

The Norfolk, Va.-based Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group is readying for a routine deployment, said Lt. Cmdr. Herb Josey, a Naval Surface Force Atlantic spokesman.

It’s unknown if the Osprey squadron will return with the Wasp. “The method for returning them has not yet been decided,” Hill said.

The Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.-based squadron will operate out of Al Asad Air Base during its seven-month deployment.

“The purpose of this is to take these Ospreys to where they can get into the fight,” Hill said. “They will go to a point from which they’ll deploy from the ship.”

VMM-263 includes 10 tilt-rotors and about 200 Marines and sailors. The squadron has been preparing for its combat deployment debut the past several months, doing everything from taking grunts on their first Osprey flights to integration training with other aircraft.

Ospreys will become the Corps’ new troop transport aircraft, flying faster and farther between refuelings than the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters they’re replacing. There are three operational MV-22 squadrons — VMM-263, VMM-162 and VMM-266 —all based at New River.

The Corps has an inventory of 52 tilt-rotors and should receive another five this year, said James Darcy, V-22 program office spokesman. Next year, 14 MV-22s are scheduled for delivery to the Corps.

Related reading
Airmen will fly on 1st Iraq tour of tilt-rotor

Osprey to make combat debut in Iraq
Here's a video of the V22 Osprey

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