When pigs fly... with Ospreys
What do you get when you cross an osprey with a warthog?
For a zoologist, the question may seem preposterous.
In Air Force terms, instead of an odd looking winged-swine hybrid, the result is immense firepower and unparalleled close-air support capability for the rapid infiltration and exfiltration of troops in the battlespace.
For the first time, the tilt-rotor CV-22 Osprey and the fixed-wing A-10 Thunderbolt II, often nicknamed the Warthog, teamed up for some high-flying training recently.
"It is like having a little angel flying on your wing," said Capt. Luke Sustman, a CV-22 evaluation pilot. "Having these (A-10) pilots out here gave them a perspective of what we do and how they help us."
The affinity for their sister aircraft was mutual.
"Impressive," said Capt. Andrew Hood, an A-10 pilot from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., after his inaugural flight aboard a CV-22. "The Osprey definitely revolutionizes the way we fight."
Captain Hood was one of a handful of A-10 pilots aboard the Osprey as the two air frames flew and practiced with one another. Representatives from the 8th Special Operations Squadron invited several A-10 pilots to fly in the Osprey to experience the unique airframe and to learn about its unique capabilities.
According to Captain Hood, one advantage of the Osprey is that it is far superior to traditional helicopters when it comes to escorting a rescue aircraft to its intended destination, either to drop off or pick up individuals in the fight.
One large advantage the CV-22 has over traditional rotary wing assets is the speed at which it is able to operate.
"Most of the time, helicopters go kind of slow," Captain Hood said. "The CV-22 is almost as fast as we are. It's able to get to its destination a lot faster (than traditional rotary wing aircraft)."
"The CV-22 can go twice as fast and twice as far as rotary wing assets," said Tech. Sgt Erik Davis, a CV-22 flight engineer.
"Speed is a huge usage boost because the A-10 doesn't have to stay exposed as long when it's providing escort," said Maj. Mike Holder, a CV-22 evaluation pilot and the mission commander.
The 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field is currently the only operational CV-22 squadron in the Air Force. Because of their uniqueness, they continually look for ways to practice and familiarize themselves with other aircraft.
"We are validating everything we talk about on the ground," said Major Holder. "It's very exciting to be on the cutting edge of technology for the Air Force."
As someone who has flown helicopters in two branches of the military, Major Holder understands the benefits of having an airframe such as the CV-22 Osprey.
"We're defining tactics rather than refining them," said Major Holder, an Army AH-1 Cobra and AH-64 Apache pilot prior to joining the Air Force. "We expect to do a lot more (inter-airframe training)."
The training, although historic, was business as usual for Sergeant Davis.
"This is another capability that we've shown we can do," Sergeant Davis said. "We feel pretty confident in our training with them, but there are a lot of steps we have to take."
Major Holder is confident his aircraft could survive if called upon at any time.
"I feel we are 100 percent ready to deploy right now if needed," he said. "We recently completed our initial operating training exercise and (the aircraft) flew great. I'm excited to fly the Osprey."
By 2nd Lt. Mark Lazane - 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
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