A trio of visitors from southeastern Oklahoma last week staying on St. George Island - Kristen Slusser and twin 17-year-old daughters Mackenzie and Madison – spotted this CV-22 Osprey flying along the shore on Thursday afternoon, July 26, and wondered from whence it came. So did we, and we have an answer.
It came not from Tyndall Air Force Base but from Hurlburt Field, an Air Force installation in Okaloosa County, just west of Mary Esther. Part of the greater Eglin Air Force Base reservation, Hurlburt is home to the headquarters of the Air Force Special Operations Command, and the 1st Special Operations Wing.
“We can confirm the CV-22 Osprey in the photo is one of our aircraft conducting normal training operations,” said Air Force 2nd Lt. Steven Bodovinitz, with the public affairs office of the 1st Special Operations Wing. “These training missions are routine in nature and ensure our continued readiness in regards to our mission.”
Kristen Slusser also commented. “It was awesome!” she wrote to us. “The Osprey was just magnificent! And aren’t those things around $71 million?”
Actually, these aircraft, build by a partnership between Bell and Boeing, cost about $73 million each in 2015.
On Nov. 16, 2006, the Air Force officially accepted the CV-22 in a ceremony conducted at Hurlburt Field. Their first operational deployment sent four CV-22s to Mali in Nov. 2008 in support of Exercise Flintlock. In June 2009, CV-22s delivered 43,000 pounds of humanitarian supplies to remote villages in Honduras not accessible by conventional vehicles In Nov. 2009, the squadron’s six CV-22s returned from a three-month deployment in Iraq.
On Dec. 21, 2013, three CV-22s came under small arms fire while on a mission to evacuate American civilians in Bor, South Sudan during the 2013 South Sudanese political crisis. The three aircraft were damaged and four crew wounded; the mission was aborted and the aircraft flew to Entebbe, Uganda. Following the incident, the Air Force developed optional armor floor panels for the V-22.
On July 3, 2014, V-22 aircraft carried Delta Force commandos to a campsite in eastern Syria where Islamic State militants had held American and other hostages. The commandos eliminated the militants, but found the hostages had been moved elsewhere and returned home emptyhanded.
The Air Force is looking to configure the CV-22 to perform combat search and rescue in addition to its primary long-range special operations transport mission. The Osprey would act as a complement to Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk and planned HH-60W rescue helicopters, being employed in scenarios where its ability to cover more ground quickly would be better suited to search and rescue than more nimble but slower helicopters.