Faster, Please:

Air Force CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft are being delivered at “too slow a rate,” Adm. Eric Olson, commander of US Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 4. “There are opportunities in the production line to accelerate that, and so we are seeking some funding in order to do that,” he said. Olson’s desire for the 50 planned CV-22s to enter service more quickly is not new as Air Force and SOCOM officials have expressed the same sentiment for several years. While the first CV-22 unit is expected to be available for combat next year, the full fleet is not anticipated until around 2017. The CV-22s will replace AFSOC’s MH-53 Pave Low helicopters, the last of which are to retire in October, Olson said. Developmental testing of the CV-22 concluded last year, and an Osprey from Kirtland AFB, N.M. assisted for the first time in a civil search and rescue mission last October. The Air Force seeks permission from Congress to buy six CV-22s in Fiscal 2009 and has an $82 million request for one additional aircraft in its 2009 unfunded requirements list. Marine Corps MV-22s have been serving in Iraq since late last year. Olson also said recapitalizing SOCOM’s fixed-wing transport fleet and its intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance systems are the command’s “most critical needs.” Further, since a new AC-130-class gunship isn’t anticipated until Fiscal 2015 to Fiscal 2017, the command is “striving to move forward with the prototype development” of a gunship variant of the smaller C-27J transport that it dubs “Gunship Light,” he said. “This is an integration effort to determine the art of the possible with respect to mounting guns on a C-27, flying it in an orbital pattern to provide quick response—primarily to troops in contact or where troops may be expected to be in contact—with the surgical precision that we’ve come to expect from the AC-130.” The Air Force’s URL included a $74.8 million request for two C-27Bs for that purpose.