US Special Operations Command is on contract to have an interim forward-firing defensive gun system on the CV-22 tiltrotor aircraft that the Air Force would like to deploy to combat later this year, Marine Corps Col. Matt Mulhern, the V-22 program director, told reporters March 18 at an industry conference in Washington, D.C. Mulhern revealed that SOCOM is looking at a “mission kit” for placement in the front of the aircraft’s hold. It will include a sensor package and a gun pod that carries a GAU-17/A that fires a 7.62 mm round. This weapon, he said, is meant to be an interim solution, since cables will run across the Osprey’s deck to fasten it, effectively eliminating some seats. It will have cameras and electro optical sensors on it and will be controlled by a crew chief or gunner. “I don’t want to say it’s not good, but it’s not complete,” Mulhern said, noting that he believes that the V-22 will be the first Air Force or Marine Corps assault landing aircraft to carry a forward-firing gun. Over time, the program office plans to introduce a follow-on, more permanent gun system that will have reduced weight and allow for the return of some of the seats in the aircraft, he said. The gun will put some firepower forward during high-risk assault landings in which Air Force Special Operations Command would be engaged, Mulhern said. “You have the ability to at least keep someone’s head down,” he said. Senior Air Force officials have stated publicly that they would like to make CV-22s available to combatant commanders around September. “It presents challenges to us, since we are in [Initial Operational Test and Evaluation],” Mulhern said. “We have very limited numbers of CVs out there, so we are sharing them between test and training.”
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.