Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ospreys head to Iraq for combat deployment

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Sep 18, 2007 7:49:23 EDT

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — The first MV-22 Ospreys to make a combat deployment are on an amphibious assault ship heading for Iraq, according to a Marine Corps headquarters spokesman.

Ten Ospreys and roughly 200 leathernecks and sailors with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 flew out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., and landed aboard the Wasp on Monday, Maj. Eric Dent said.

He did not know where the Norfolk, Va.-based ship was when the Ospreys boarded. The ship was diverted from an international exercise in Panama on Sept. 5 to the Nicaraguan coast to assist with disaster-relief efforts in areas affected by Hurricane Felix.

VMM-263 is heading for Al Asad Air Base for a seven-month deployment; the Ospreys will provide tactical assault support for Marines and soldiers.

The Corps decided to deploy the tilt-rotors via ship, in part to allow the aircraft to do shipboard integration operations. Corps officials would not say where the Ospreys will leave the ship and move into Iraq.

“Due to operational security, we can’t discuss the specifics,” Dent said.

The squadron has been preparing for its combat deployment debut for the past several months, doing everything from taking grunts on their first Osprey flights to performing 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 more than 50 MV-22s, with 14 more scheduled for delivery next year.

Of course, I have to include yet another Osprey video (from the Discovery Channel's "Future Weapons"). Since actually getting to see one in person, I am just fascinated.

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