Getting Ready For Prime Time

The Air Force is considering sending the CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft on its first deployment later this year, two senior USAF officials told the House Armed Services Committee March 11. Initial operational test and evaluation of the CV-22 began in October 2007 and the flying phase should conclude in June, Lt. Gen. Daniel Darnell, deputy chief of staff for Air, Space, and Information Operations, Plans and Requirements, and Lt. Gen. Daniel Hoffman, military deputy to the Air Force acquisition executive, told the committee’s air and land forces and seapower and expeditionary forces panels in a joint statement. “This will support a potential first deployment for Air Force Special Operations Command in the fall of 2008,” they write. AFSOC is buying 50 CV-22s to replace the command’s aged MH-53 Pave Low helicopters and provide long-range infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces in denied areas. USAF expects to reach initial operational capability with the CV-22 in Fiscal 2009. AFSOC already has nine CV-22s in its possession, including four primary mission aircraft, one test asset, and four being used for training pilots, a command spokeswoman told the Daily Report March 12. Last September, Gen. Michael Moseley, Chief of Staff, said AFSOC might deploy the CV-22s to combat before IOC to avoid a capability gap between the formal combat-ready date and the retirement of the remaining MH-53s, which is set to conclude in October. The Air Force expects to have all 50 of AFSOC’s CV-22s in the fleet by 2017, but senior US Special Operations Command officials have said they would like to accelerate that schedule.