Hurlburt Gets First Osprey info
Pensacola News Journal
November 17, 2006
Unique aircraft combines helicopter, airplane features
By Louis Cooper
It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a helicopter.
No, it's an Osprey.
On Thursday, the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton Beach officially received its first Osprey, technically designated the CV-22.
The Osprey has the unique ability to take off and land like a helicopter, but fly like an airplane. It does so by rotating its two large turboprops from a vertical to a forward direction.
"Our enemies better watch out," said Lt. Gen. Mike Wooley, commander of the Air Force Special Operation Command based at Hurlburt. "This is truly a transitional event for our great Air Force and for our Special Operations Command."
The Osprey has a crew of two pilots and two engineers. It can transport up to 32 troops or 10,000 pounds of cargo. It can travel 2,100 nautical miles without refueling, with a cruising speed of 230 knots and a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet.
While the Osprey delivered Thursday has no offensive capabilities, plans are to add a rear gun and possibly a forward gun.
Hurlburt will boast 50 of the crafts -- which cost $89 million each -- by 2017.
The Osprey is manufactured through a collaboration between Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. and the Boeing Company.
Gen. Bryan "Doug" Brown, commander of the Special Operations Command, said the Osprey would have been a big help when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan.
"We would have done it quicker. We would have done it safer. We would have done it with less refueling," Brown said. "Speed is important on the battlefield."
Lt. Col. Eric Hill, director of operations for the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt, said the base has four pilots qualified to fly the Osprey and three qualified engineers.
More are in training at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
"We have about a year's worth of testing and tactics development to do before we go to initial operating capacity," Hill said. "We should be able to deploy for the first time in late 2008."
Hill expects to receive a second Osprey in February, with another by summer.
The Air Force is second only to the Marine Corps in use of the Osprey.
While in development, 30 crew members died in a series of crashes. But the craft was given the final go-ahead in 2000.