We have written elsewhere about the impact of the Osprey on Libyan operations. And Lt. Col. Boniface, the ACE commander for 26th MEU, underscored one element of that impact.
The Ospreys from Afghanistan flew directly to Souda Bay, Crete and then onto Naval Air Station Signalla, Italy. This trip is a 3500 NM transit. This has been the longest in our short history, and they did it in one day. You can’t even begin to argue or compare and contrast these facts with the CH-46E.
Another recent event, which showed the range of the Osprey and its impact on operations, was the need to fly directly from the North Carolina base to the small Central American country of Belize. C-17s were not available to fly Marines to the jungle-training center. So instead of using C-17s, the Marines were directly transported by Osprey Air to the exercise area. This self-deployment capability needed support from only one other platform, the C-130J tankers used by Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252.
This self-sustained flight of more than 1300 mile operation is an example of a who new strategic capability which the Osprey and its support elements bring to the USMC and to the Nation. By NOT needing USAF tanker support, this frees a severly overtaxed fleet from needing to support USMC troop insertion. It means as well that the USMC can insert and withdraw forces using the Osprey Bridge to ensure the ability to put boots on the ground when needed, as rapidly as possible And the ability of the Osprey to land virtually anywhere, unlike the C-17, means that the force is not constrained by landing field conditions of large lift and tanker assets.
The strategic use of such a capability is significant and worthy not only of recognition but of consideration as the nation re-thinks its strategy for the 21st century. Add a combat aircraft with electronic warfare capability built in – the F-35B – which can land in conditions similar to the Osprey, the flexibility and punch of a small insertion force goes up exponentially.
For some pieces looking at the Belize operation see the following: