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The operation kicked off according to plan. The CV-22s—which can fly like regular planes and land like helicopters—arrived on schedule at the United Nations compound in Bor, where the evacuees were sheltering.The pilots from the 8th Special Operations Squadron then flew around the immediate area to check for any hostile fighters. The tiltrotors were about to land when someone attacked.
“The barrage of gunfire and RPGs from the ground hit the formation 119 times,” the 1st Special Operations Wing news report explains. In the end, all three Ospreys suffered severe damaged. Gunfire and shrapnel hit four special operators aboard the planes.
Three of the wounded troops were “in critical condition” and apparently could have died as the planes rushed to Entebbe airport in neighboring Uganda.
As if bleeding commandos weren’t bad enough, the enemy machine guns and rockets had broken the fuel lines in at least one of the aircraft. Aerial tankers—quite possibly the MC-130P Hercules that also fly from Djibouti—rushed to the scene to top up the limping Ospreys’ tanks.
U.S. Air Force Finally Talks About That Time Three V-22s Almost Got Shot Down
In December 2013, American troops aborted a rescue mission in South Sudan. Now, the U.S. Air Force finally has released additional details about the ill-fated operation.
They’re pretty frightening … and impressive.
On Dec. 21, three Air Force CV-22 Ospreys carrying commandos left Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, bound for the city of Bor in South Sudan. Widespread violence in the country following an attempted coup d’etat had trapped American civilians.
At first, the Pentagon and Africa Command were vague about what happened next. An official press statement said the aircraft had come under attack by forces on the ground and four unidentified “service members” were wounded.
The unique tiltrotors landed safely in Uganda. Official spokesmen described the casualties as being “in stable condition” and said the injured had gone to Kenya for extra medical attention.
These paltry snippets of information didn’t suggest the situation had been especially serious. But now in a new official news piece, the Air Force describes a deadly serious chain of events that almost resulted in the destruction of the aircraft and the deaths of people aboard.
The operation kicked off according to plan. The CV-22s—which can fly like regular planes and land like helicopters—arrived on schedule at the United Nations compound in Bor, where the evacuees were sheltering.
The pilots from the 8th Special Operations Squadron then flew around the immediate area to check for any hostile fighters. The tiltrotors were about to land when someone attacked.
Is the airframe sufficiently armored?
It will be interesting to hear who got shot where and with what. If it was a lucky shot into the open rear of the aircraft that caused casualties, then, it’s a regrettable (and probably unavoidable) accident. If it’s something else…something sufficient to, say, ventilate the passenger/cargo area with a bunch of holes, that might be a sign the CV-22 is under-armored (And, if an AK-47 round penetrated the passenger/cargo area, we’ve got REAL problems). Again, as an OMFTS platform, the underlying understanding in development was that this platform would avoid flying into somebody’s crosshairs.
Does the airframe lack the ability to adequately suppress ground fire?
One of the reasons the CV-22 may not be a good piece of kit for complex urban environments is simply that the aircraft lacks weaponry. In Afghanistan, the MV-22′s bolt-on Belly-Mounted Chain Gun was, at best, a heavy, nausea-inducing technical kludge (which was never used), and the tail ramp gun was a weak interim solution. But compared to the old MH-53M Pave Low’s ample armament, the stock, off-the-shelf CV-22 (assuming these haven’t been modified by the spooks too much) has little to suppress local fire by itself. Without excellent ISR and something overhead/alongside to support, the Osprey is not something I’d want to be flying into a potentially hot LZ (leaving is a different matter entirely).
Tactically, can we now get about recognizing that the V-22 departs faster than it lands?
I’ve read a lot of stories with MV-22-selling Marines and other salesmen chortling about how they could zoom away from an LZ so fast nobody could draw a bead on them. Landing, however, is something else. MV-22s are loud, big and slow targets that are–thanks to prior accidents–locked into some high-safety margin approach profiles and high-requirement LZs. Again, not a big problem if you’re following the OMFTS playbook or in a free-fire zone accompanied by lots of fire-suppressing friends.
I still think that the aircraft is just too expensive to operate as a multi-mission helo substitute, and I strongly suspect a REAL (i.e., a Glenn Defense Marine Asia-like “take it wherever it might go”) inquiry into the V-22 will reveal maintenance-record-keeping and numbers games. Call me a pessimist, but I believe that the tactics used to hide bloated maintenance budgets, minimize massive contractor support, obscure poor operational readiness rates and explain away the added cost of special equipment to accommodate the MV-22′s particular maintenance issues and operational challenges (How much do those well-deckless LHA’s cost these days, anyway? Oh, and how much will fire-suppression support escorts cost? etc, etc.?) would make Fat Leonard’s waterfront machinations look like the thrashings of an amateur profiteer. But that’s water under the bridge, I suppose.
To me, the MV-22 is still proving itself. It is still a overly-specialized (almost a–cough–single-mission) logistical support platform. But once the Services come to terms that this platform is both enabled and constrained by its OMFTS developmental origins, and then decide to cough up the cash and equipment (ISR assets, fire support, maintenance etc) required for the Osprey to overcome the OMFTS limitations (and capitali