Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ospreys Finish First Operational Deployment

A Malian soldier takes a defensive position while an Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 Osprey departs a landing zone as part of a drill for Exercise Flintlock in Bamako, Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo.)

Senegalese soldiers exit an Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 Osprey during mission rehearsals as part of Exercise Flintlock Nov. 16 in Bamako, Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo.)

A Malian boy stops to watch incoming CV-22 Ospreys carrying Malian and Senegalese troops during an exercise near Bamako, Mali. U.S. Special Operations forces the worked with African and European partner nations in the effort to build bonds of trust and confidence. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bryan Purtell.)

An Airman from the 1st Special Operations Helicopter Maintenance Squadron works atop a CV-22 Osprey under the African sun in Bamako, Mali. The CV-22s conducted their first operational deployment as part of Exercise Flintlock, a training designed build capacity among Trans-Saharan nations so that they may more effectively address issues which threaten peace, stability and security. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Lauren Johnson.)

Focus on Defense:

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla., Dec. 4, 2008 -- Four CV-22 Ospreys from the 8th Special Operations Squadron here returned after completing their first operational deployment supporting Exercise Flintlock 2009 in November in Bamako, Mali.

The aircraft supported the training exercise in the Trans-Saharan region designed to build relationships and capacity and to enhance African nations' ability to patrol and control their sovereign territory.

The exercise included personnel from 15 countries, and the CV-22 served as a platform for multinational training. Specifically, the aircraft was used to transport Malian and Senegalese special operations forces and their leadership teams.

"We did long range, vertical lift, and dropped (teams) off at a landing zone," said Capt. Dennis Woodlief, an 8th SOS pilot. "They practiced their ground movements, then we brought them back."

Missions like this allowed the CV-22 to take advantage of its unique capabilities as a tilt rotor aircraft, said Lt. Col. Eric Hill, the 8th SOS squadron commander.

"The tyranny of distance in the African continent is amazing," he said. "We were able to go over 500 nautical miles, infiltrate a small team for them to run their exercise, and bring them back all the way to home base without doing an air refueling stop. And we were able to do that in the span of about four hours. "

"It would take the MH-53 (Pave Low) twice, sometimes three times as long (to do these missions)," Captain Woodlief said. "And we did it with just one aircraft."

Colonel Hill said the CV-22 is an "unprecedented capability." And with the new capability, there were also new lessons to be learned.

"We learned some lessons like we always do on different equipment we'd like to have and requirements that we'll have in the future," he said.

Many of those lessons revolve around tailoring maintenance packages for future deployments.

Members of the 1st Special Operations Helicopter Maintenance Squadron deployed to Bamako in support of the 8th SOS. Because the exercise was held at a remote location rather than an established base, one of the maintenance challenges was self-deploying with all the parts and equipment they needed to keep the CV-22s operational for the entire exercise, and for the cumulative 10,000 nautical mile trans-Atlantic flights.

"We have a laundry list about three pages long of things we'd like to take next time," said Master Sgt. Craig Kornely, the squadron's lead production supervisor. "As we grow into the machine, we realize our needs for equipment and resources."

But despite the challenges of operating a new aircraft for the first time overseas and in an austere environment, the squadron had a perfect mission success rate during the exercise.

"We had zero maintenance cancels, zero delays, and we executed 100 percent every time," Captain Woodlief said. "I think we went above and beyond everyone's expectations."

(Report by 1st Lt. Lauren Johnson, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs.)

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