Responding to criticism that the MV-22’s first combat deployment to Iraq was a softball and that the aircraft flew mostly VIP delegations around, Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly said yesterday he put the Osprey into the fight when he led the Marines of Multi National Force-West and it proved its worth in western Iraq. “Because it zips around the way it does, it was doing a lot more VIP lifting than I thought it should be doing,” Kelly told defense reporters in Washington, D.C. and added, “So I took it out of the VIP business.” Kelly, who is now deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said he wanted to get the MV-22 “into the dirt” because of its speed, comparatively low noise level, and its ability to get above small arms and missile threats quickly. “It’s very quiet relative to a helicopter, so the bad guys are not drawn to its arrival,” he said. The Osprey’s availability numbers, hovering around 65 percent when Kelly arrived in theater, rose to 85 percent by the time he left earlier this year. He said that was due to the maintainers’ increasing knowledge of how to sustain the aircraft in the desert. Kelly said the MV-22 will likely be used in Afghanistan as well. The CH-46 helicopter has a lighter capacity in the summer than in the winter and is “very, very limited” in certain environments, while the Osprey has the speed and lift to be more flexible in the high-hot climate of Afghanistan, he said.
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.