Leader Blues

Monday, October 16, 2006

TOP STORY >>Osprey lands at base for Refueling

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

A CV-22 Osprey with the 71st Special Operations Squadron at Kirtland AFB, N.M., made a pit-stop at Little Rock Air Force Base Wednesday while en route to Andrews AFB, Maryland.

The four-man crew — two pilots and two flight engineers — stopped to refuel as they made their way to this weekend’s dedication ceremonies for the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., where the aircraft will be part of the memorial ceremony’s static display exhibits.

Lt. Col. Mike McKinney, the Osprey’s pilot, gave The Leader a quick tour of the tilt-rotor aircraft while the group was at the air base. McKinney’s Osprey is one of only four the Air Force has in service; all are stationed at Kirtland AFB for operational testing and training. McKinney said the first operational squadron to get an Osprey would be the 16th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., which are scheduled for delivery beginning in fiscal year 2007. An initial operational capability will be established in fiscal year 2009 with six aircraft.

The Air Force’s Osprey is a modified version of the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22. “Ours is about 85 percent the same as the Marines’,” McKinney said. “We’ve added defense mechanisms such as weather and terrain radars.” The CV-22 has an advanced electronic warfare suite, a multi-mode radar that permits flight at very low altitude in zero visibility, and a retractable aerial refueling probe.

McKinney describes the Osprey as a modified C-130. “It can take-off and land like a helicopter, but can cruise like a C-130,” McKinney said. The Osprey can hover, and take off and land vertically, like a helicopter, and once airborne, the engine and prop-rotor group on each wing can rotate into a forward position, like the C-130.

“It can also fly two times faster than a helicopter,” McKinney said. The Osprey has a cruising speed of 277 miles per hour and a range three times greater than the MH-53J Pave Low helicopter, the largest, most powerful and technologically advanced helicopter in the Air Force inventory.

The Osprey is capable of flying 1,500 nautical miles with its internal auxiliary fuel tanks and no refueling, compared to the 600 nautical miles the Pave Low is capable of without refueling. More than 2,500 nautical miles are possible on the Osprey with one aerial refueling and the auxiliary tanks.

The Osprey offers increased speed and range over other rotary-wing aircraft and can perform missions that normally would require both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. “We love it and our having a great time,” McKinney said. “It flies great. I wouldn’t fly it if I thought it was unsafe.”