Another Step in the Maturation of the Osprey: Long-Range and High Altitude Ops

2013-10-18 In an earlier discussion with Col. Orr, we focused on the process of the maturation of the Osprey which can be seen in the video excerpt above.

In this interview, we had a chance to talk with Commander of VMX-22 about the Osprey exercise, which focused on executing a TRAP or rescue mission going from North Carolina into Colorado..

This high altitude and long-range mission was testing further evolution of the Osprey’s capabilities.

SLD: Could you discuss the exercise you participated in which was built around Osprey tests and focused on doing a “rescue” at long range and in high altitude conditions?

Col. Orr: In this exercise, we were interested in evaluating the aircraft’s ability to operate in high altitude conditions while taking advantage of the V-22’s improved carrying capacity.

We wanted to execute two things at the same time:

First, we wanted to evaluate the long range mission capability, which is a critical part of what we’re asking the aircraft to perform today as part of a regional response force. 

We wanted to launch with only partial information and update our mission using satellite communications en-route, while conducting multiple aerial refuelings.

And the second piece was to operate in a high altitude environment, simulating some of the threat areas that we may be facing in the future.

We partnered with MARSOC, the Marine Special Operations Command, who were looking to get some of their operators trained in the Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel and Combat Search and Rescue mission areas.

Typically, we spend a great deal of time looking for isolated personnel. In this exercise, we were able to conduct an end-to-end test on our portable survival radios while building MARSOC’s combat skills.  The results were pretty amazing.

We launched out of New River, NC with a MARSOC team embarked on a couple of our V-22s. We had another V-22 sprint ahead and put some simulated downed aircrew on the ground ahead of the main team’s arrival.

Our team had a rough general location of where the survivors were prior to launch, but using the improved satellite communication on the Osprey to a remote Joint Personnel Recovery Center, we were able to securely update the survivor’s position inflight. 

After 1400 miles of flight, we landed within a few meters of the survivor’s position without ever talking to the simulated injured guy on the ground.

I think the most exciting thing about this exercise was that without any voice communication between the survivor and the aircraft, we were able to pinpoint his position and affect a rapid rescue.

The survivor was able to use his survival radio to text his location information back to the Joint Personnel Recovery Center that we had setup in North Carolina.

The isolated personnel were able to pass along updates about the enemy and the friendly situation to the Osprey using secure satellite communication as it transited across the country. 

SLD: When did this event take place?

Col. Orr:  The event started on September 20th and lasted a couple of days.

With the new software, we wanted to test the ability of the Osprey to operate at high altitudes and we were able to do that.

SLD: To summarize what you have said: the TRAP mission was conceived of as an exercise to test several new things all at once. One, the software or being able to better manage the aircraft and in terms of carrying more, going further, and operating at higher altitude. So from that point of view, it was more like a real life test rather than you just flying out to Colorado, flying around and coming home.

You took the MARSOC people with you and laid down a TRAP-like mission on the test itself, but in this particular case they were also trying to test the ability to use sats and radios to learn the position of the person to be saved.

The task was to learn how they could use the Osprey capability up against the ability to better find the person who is discretely texting rather than voice communicating into a radio.

In effect, you were looking at the tactical adjustments you might want to make when you’re doing something like this with the Osprey.

Col. Orr: That is a good summary of what we did. 

This evaluation builds on a theme we talked about earlier, namely the maturation of the Osprey as a true multi-mission aircraft capable of operating in a variety of environments. 

As we continue to think about how we employ this aircraft and what it does for us strategically, we assist in building the concept of operations for our special purpose MAGTFs and deployed Marine Expeditionary Units to operate way beyond their traditional areas of responsibility.

I think you’re going to see more evolutions like this in the future.

 

The photos were shot during the exercise and are credited to Lance Cpl. Ryan G. Coleman. 

For our comprehensive look at the Osprey and associated changes in the USMC creating new concepts of operations see our new edition of the Three Dimensional Warriors.

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