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Osprey Air Assault in Afghanistan

by christian on December 4, 2009

We’re working the Operation Cobra’s Anger story for more inside gouge, but one thing the wires are reporting is that 3/4 and other elements of this morning’s assault on Now Zad involved air assaults using MV-22 Ospreys.

As you all know, the birds from VMM-263 just chopped from the Bataan to Camp Bastion in Helmand province Afghanistan and fell in on VMM-261 who’ll do a pump there. Many Osprey critics hounded the program for not pushing the assault envelope in Iraq. Well, it seems as if the Corps has put the birds to quick use on a 3am lift of Recon troops, infantry grunts and Brits.

I’m working on getting more details from this on the Osprey’s role, but I thought I’d bring this to your attention early on while working the sources…

– Christian

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Kamber December 4, 2009 at 4:00 pm

w00t, I'm glad they're finally using them to what they're capable of…


Ed! December 4, 2009 at 7:06 pm

The Thunder Chickens are finally being used in their designated role. Christian, from what I have seen on Fox News is they were reporting them being used intel and patrol operations.


SMSgt Mac December 4, 2009 at 7:13 pm

I always marvel at the 'too (expensive/precious/vulnerable -you fill in the blank) to use" cries over certain weapon systems. The idea that the Marines would never risk the Osprey was laughable, as was any idea that they would use them in any way before they were ready.
Just one less hollow criticism to bounce around the echo chamber…


TMB December 4, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Hey Mac, long time no see. How you been?


SMSgt Mac December 5, 2009 at 7:59 am

Doing good.
Working killer hours lately. (Salaried, but authorized 40 hrs OT/wk that I'm trying desperately NOT to employ) I still come here frequently for news, but since DT 'upgraded', IMHO too many threads seem to get too polluted by overflow trolls from the main Military.com - so lately I usually just sigh and lurk.


Cole December 5, 2009 at 12:01 am

I'm almost positve that Fox news on live TV was claiming that Marines parachuted in by MV-22 and helicopter. ABC news keeps using the words "dropped in" in their written pieces as well. They have the only live TV footage because they have an embed reporter. A clip is on their website showing a line charge being used to blow a path through a minefield.

Interestingly, the live ABC news report showed the Marine unit in their M-ATVs saying they were going to spend the night in them due to all the mines…so guess M-ATVs have a place after all…

BTW, Now Zad is at 4,000' altitude using google. Also wonder if the Brits used their new Merlins. Good job Marines.


phrogdriver December 5, 2009 at 3:24 am

It's the Raging Bulls of VMM-261 over there, not the Thunder Chickens of VMM-263.

No matter what the Osprey does, it will never be enough for the critics.

It goes to Iraq, they say the real war is in Afghanistan. It goes to Afghanistan, they say it will just go FOB to FOB and not do any real inserts. It does a real insert, I'm sure the next complaint will be that the zone wasn't hot enough.

When it goes into a hot zone, I'm sure they'll complain, "Oh, I thought it was supposed to fly around the hot zones…" Wait, weren't you saying it couldn't do that? Consistency will never be a strong suit of the critics, other that consistent carping on non-issues.


Cole December 5, 2009 at 5:08 am

Well since phrog went there….

Let me add that a quick flight time calculation from Lashkar Gah to Now Zad revealed less than 15 minutes one-way time DIFFERENCE between a MV-22 and UH-60M…less with a Chinook at 170 knots. And then I realized that Camp Bastion is closer to Now Zad than Lashkar Gah so the time difference is even smaller.

So again, while you guys did great, you sure ought to spending 4 times the money of a UH-60M and twice the cost of a CH-47F….that probably would have carried twice as many troops into a 4,000' LZ….plus a sling load.

But, the ground operation and use of tanks, MRAPs and the new line charge machine looks impressive. That town is deserted, though, and not sure what is there that would be worth coming back to.


SMSgt Mac December 5, 2009 at 8:58 am

Yes this was a short assault as far as assaults go. Even 15 minutes can be an eternity when the enemy can see you coming from a long way away coming up the valley. But I think the difference could be even greater.
It looks like from Camp Bastion to Now Zad (aka Nawzad ?) is ~35nm direct line of sight. Did your time difference factor allow for a flight plan with tactical deception? I ask, because a quick glance at the terrain and opportunities to use it to sneak up from behind could realistically make the assault route if coming up from behind 2+ (to nearly 4 times farther (~130nm )


Cole December 5, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Well, was trying to avoid disclosing exact distances and times en route which I derived from nothing more than an internet map. I thought about the deception thing but didn't go there. Suspect that at 0darkearly, the sound of lots of helicopters/MV-22 running up would eliminate much surprise other than the exact target.

Considering how few Taliban they seemed to encounter, suspect cell phones were in use as they were in Somalia and Iraq. And in the dark, suspect neither helicopters nor MV-22 were at top speed.

It also occurred to me that while a full squadron of 24 UH-60M ($432 million) easily would fit in a 1 km x 1km LZ in one lift, with 250 feet between MV-22 and none directly behind each other you might fit all 10 MV-22 ($720 million) with around 150 troops on board vs. 240 troops for the Blackhawks flying into a 4000'LZ. If MV-22s melt carrier decks, what happens if they overfly Marines laying on the ground who just offloaded from the aircraft to their front?


Buddy March 9, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Funny thing about the Osprey is that it cant be heard from too far away like a UH60 can be.


Cole December 5, 2009 at 2:00 pm

But this was a great idea and lets the Taliban know that more troops will allow the coalition to go where they haven't gone before….and this operation was before the arrival of additional troops and only uses about 1,000. No safe havens.


phrogdriver December 5, 2009 at 4:02 pm

The heating issue on carrier decks is for extended time on deck where the exhaust is only a couple feet above the deck. It's not as if there are flames flying out. Overflight of troops is not an issue.

Ospreys can land closer than 250 feet with the right procedures. That limitation is based on a misreading of NATOPS limitations by critics, much like the ballyhooed, "V-22s come into the zone travelling at only 800 feet per minute" lie. Yeah, 800 fpm, in the VERTICAL PLANE (not the horizontal), the same generic limitation recommended on every helicopter IN THE WORLD.


Dan Sullivan December 5, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Interesting commentary. Heard news of this operation yesterday from a buddy at 2MAW. Found this info easily via Google. Hope the chatter doesn't mitigate our ongoing tactical advantage. The MV-22 must be a sight to the average sheethead. Press on Leathernecks. S/fi, DJS (LtCol USMC Ret)


phrogdriver December 5, 2009 at 7:41 pm

They are early adopters of some key technologies that relate directly to their mission, just not a lot of gucci bells and whistles. To wit, landing craft, the amtrac, the helicopter (first heloborne assault was Marine), now the tiltrotor. Changing rifles or individual gear to the latest trend, not so much.


phrogdriver December 5, 2009 at 9:45 pm

As far as the sneaking up that was mentioned earlier, the V22 in airplane mode is a lot quieter than a helo, expecially in front. Also, figuring that an aircraft at low altitude is probably visible at 5-7 miles, would you rather cover that distance at about 2 miles a minute or at 4 miles a minute? I'm guessing the latter will give a lot less warning to the enemy.

Looking at it another way, a shorter travel time means a lot less notice from the time the enemy observer or third country national sees a large flight leaving a FOB and calls the local warlord to let him know the Americans are up to something.


Cole December 5, 2009 at 11:11 pm

5-7 miles??? You are assuming the helicopter is flying high and in the daytime.

Marine Corps Times has a good article about the MV-22 center gun and also mentions it will seldom fly alone. So out of 10 aircraft with maybe 7 working, you must either double up with another scarce MV-22 or with scarce Cobras and UH-1Y…that slow you down.

I will concede advantages in approaching from unexpected directions and the capability to aerial refuel helps you reduce fuel requirements. As someone mentioned, you can make trips to multiple FOBs/COPs one one fuel load with partial loads dropped at each…while the Army simply dispatches more aircraft to individual locations. Again, good job on this operation. Just get Christian to cool it on the 'big Army" and the Marines can do it all B.S. and save some money for others.


phrogdriver December 6, 2009 at 4:53 am

Yes on daytime, obviously, but 5-7 isn't very far with a clear line of sight. Stand on the ground at an airport, and you'll be able to see aircraft at the class D entry points.

Army guys love to tout their NOE, but it really isn't a good tactic for an assault, more of an attack helo or an infil/exfil type of thing.

When you call them on how slow it is, a lot of them will say they fly at 100+ knots at 50'. Have fun with those powerlines, guys. AQ won't need MANPADS to kill you, just a net.


Cole December 5, 2009 at 10:59 pm

“In figuring your cost advantages for the UH-60, did you account for 24 flight crews vs 10 for the same number of troops inserted? Not to mention the increased maintenance for 2.5 X the number of A/C, and twice the fuel for the same mission-which would require more logistical support as well.”
Philosophies and missions. Sea-basing requires Marines to carry more troops per platform to get to shore. LHA space constraints dictate fewer, larger platforms per ship. Examples: Less armored EFVs carrying 17+3 vs more armored GCV exposing just 9+3. Fewer MV-22 carrying maybe 21 with 800 lb. center gun versus more UH-60’s lifting up to 14. Marines: only a few Cobras, UH-1, and CH-53E. Army: larger attack, assault, and Chinook battalions providing more support to more locations.


Cole December 5, 2009 at 11:00 pm

No harm, no foul on why Marines do what they do. But don’t shortchange “big Army” and claim that Marine austerity is more efficient or more capable. Comparing an MV-22 squadron with 12 aircraft vs. a UH-60M assault battalion with 24:
• 80% of the UH-60M means 19 available a/c vs 60% of the more complex MV-22 = 7 a/c available at significantly greater procurement cost
• MV-22 squadron has half the flight crews but probably more than half the maintainers who centralize at larger bases while UH-60s can decentralize positioning aircraft at smaller forward FOBs
• UH-60 $2700 cost per flight hour compared to $11,000 for MV-22
• UH-60 hourly fuel consumption of about 150gallons per hour compared to 500 gph for MV-22. For fewer overall flight hours, the small MV-22 squadron requires far more fuel endangering convoy personnel


topV7051 December 6, 2009 at 1:22 am

If you thought I was slamming the Army, you were mistaken. In fact, based on your response on philosophies and mission, we mostly agree. Army and Marines both bring their own capabilities to the table. So why, if you get the "philosophies and mission" part, were you comparing the Osprey to USA aircraft anyway?

Provided your numbers are correct, is there a higher cost to the Osprey? Yes, but it does things that no helo can do, and those costs will go down over time-just as those of the Chinook and Blackhawk, which had plenty of teething problems of their own.


Russ December 5, 2009 at 6:44 pm

I was not a fan of the Osprey when the program started; it seemed to miss the KISS principle by a huge margin. I couldn't understand the Marine Corps fascination with it. After all the Marines are not known as 'early adopters' of technology

However now I can see why and where they are going. Took time to get the tech to work but the advantage is clear.

This Op shows a bit of how they intend using it. It fast, multiple short hops before refueling. They sorted the room to land multiples, not a bad thing in air assault as it spreads the target area.

Now I think it a good replacement for the CH-46 and as the experience in use grow so wil the employment envelope.


mike December 5, 2009 at 10:07 pm

:…Marines are not known as 'early adopters' of technology "


Try the LAV over 20+ years before the Army finally figured it might be a good idea and bought Strykers (aka LAV-light to Marines).

Try the AV-8 Harrier, first STOVL a/c in the American inventory. Yah the Brit Navy had it first, but the Marines had a requirement in for fixed wing VSTOL CAS sinc the 1950s

Air Cushion Vehicles - designed by the Navy maybe but to fill a Marine Corps requirement.


Nraddin December 7, 2009 at 2:16 pm

The LAV is a copy of other equipment used all over the world before the Marines (South Africa comes to mind). The AV-8 was designed and built to fill a requirment of Europe’s NATO forces. The Marines picked up on them after they where in production and use by the British. The LCAC (Air Cushion trasport) is nothing new as hovercraft had been in service all over the place long before the Navy got thiers (transport accross the English Channel in much much larger ones years before the LCAC).

I love the Marines, but he is right they are not known for being ‘early adopters’ of tech.


Rick W December 7, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Even worse… The LAV's were originally intended to outfit the Army's RDF force. The Marines inherited them because:
A) The Marines said rapid deployment was their mission, and (more importantly).
B) The Army brass at the time wanted nothing to do with wheeled armor. (Many still don't.)


STemplar December 6, 2009 at 12:30 am

It's apples and oranges to certain extent, both systems bring capabilities and drawbacks. The question is simple, does the equipment provide a capability that allows commanders to exploit the enemy in a way no other nation can? I'd say it most certainly does.

Is it more exspensive to buy and operate than a helicopter? Yes. Does it do things a helicopter can't and in so doing give us a worth while advantage? Absolutely.

This operation allows a side by side comparison to be made with UH-60s. Change the operation to something requiring greater range with a time critical element and the Osprey does what the Blackhawk can't..

Bottom line is I think the USMC is more lethal and capable with it than without.


Cole December 6, 2009 at 1:04 am

No UH-60s in this operation, but lots of Army helicopters helped the 4,000 Marines move into Helmand in the first place.

But I don't care anymore….cuz Alabama is the SEC Champion and on their way to the National Championship!!!!!!!!! Yeah baby. Now if only miracles could continue in the Army-Navy game…..


phrogdriver December 6, 2009 at 12:46 am

You don't need to spread out the V-22s across the battlespace. They can range all of Iraq, for example.

The maintenance numbers are already above 60% and steadlily increasing, while the flight hour cost is decreasing.

The extra cost buys you a capability that a helicopter can't give at any price.


Ryan C. Bailey December 6, 2009 at 1:43 am

Great report Christian, that photo is just awesome, cheers.


Jay December 6, 2009 at 9:46 am

I would rather have half the amount of Marines tilt rotored in than three times the amount of soldiers. At least when the Marines get there they know what the hell they're doing. The army still has to figure out what color their camouflage uniform is going to be and which soldiers are going to the next promotion board and which officer is going to get the silver star for getting dust in his eye.


daniel December 6, 2009 at 9:52 pm

wow, pretty opinionated for a never was


Cole December 6, 2009 at 9:10 pm

While I respect your combat service and branch enormously Jay, please avoid Army stereotypes lest you reinforce a well known Marine one. Consider this quote from an Army Colonel's "Military Review" article commenting on his 173rd Airborne battalion's accomplishments over 15 MONTHS in combat:

"The enemy routinely engaged at the maximum effective range, but on at least five occasions were close enough to touch Americans. Twenty-six members of Task Force Rock gave their lives in Kunar Province. Other noteworthy Soldier statistics include:
●143 wounded.
●Three nominated for the Medal of Honor.
●Two nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross (one awarded by the time of this publication).
●25 Silver Stars awarded.
●90 Bronze Star Medals with Valor awarded"


mike December 7, 2009 at 2:07 am

As a Marine veteran, I personally do NOT believe that Jay served in my Marine Corps. Why do you assume Jay has combat service in any branch? He sounds like a wannabe to me.


Jsmith December 7, 2009 at 1:06 am

Kick Taliban butt, Marines!


Wild Bill December 7, 2009 at 3:36 pm

"Kick Taliban butt, Marines!"

By reading the Wa Po over the weekend it turns out that the President only wants to degrade the Taliban butt ….. no kicking.


Nraddin December 7, 2009 at 2:34 pm

I am pretty sure that I would rather take a quick kick to the ass than have it ‘degraded’ I am not sure exactly what a degraded butt would be like, but I am sure I would get over the kick to that ass faster…;)


Mike December 7, 2009 at 11:58 am

It's great to see them being used for what they were designed to do.


Zandor December 8, 2009 at 2:27 am

This photograph of a single soldier, is proof positive of what the USA is doing in Afghanistan.

Pissing in the sand.


kyle September 10, 2011 at 12:53 am

still not a chinook… there good but cant get to the ground fast enough for an air assult infill


MIKE December 5, 2009 at 7:01 am

On a web page? Or is "here" referring to China?


JimboJones December 5, 2009 at 8:30 am

I think you're hooked on the trolls bait my friend…


alex December 5, 2009 at 8:52 am

"I just love all of the macho soldier talk. "

Christian loves laying it on thick.

Christan you have some good post sometimes, that's why I keep coming back but talking like this doesn't buy you any cred.


Zandor December 5, 2009 at 2:05 pm


Just what has Zandor said on this post line that isn't true?


Valcan December 5, 2009 at 6:07 pm

You know they say refering to yourself in the 3rd person is a sign of mental illness.

Seriously dude your a troll….it obvious. And not even a very good one.


Valcan December 5, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Dude, ive stopped trying really it makes no difference these people are like moon landing deniers.


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