CV-22 starts new era for special operations

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla -- The 8th Special Operations Squadron will welcome its 22nd aircraft when the CV-22 arrives at Hurlburt Field, with a new mission, a new location and a new venture for the special operations world.

The CV-22's mission will be to execute infiltration and exfiltration, and resupply missions to be able to globally respond and to have rapid mobility while leaving a small footprint.

"The self-deploying capability of the CV-22 enables us to respond to any mission immediately," said Lt. Col. Eric Hill, 8th SOS director of operations. "We can just up and fly as-is with no tear down or transport necessary."

The aircraft's speed will allow it to reach destinations worldwide much quicker and will prove to be a big asset when performing infiltration, exfiltration or resupply operations. When in airplane mode, the aircraft is 75 percent quieter than other rotary wing aircraft, which will be beneficial when heading into unknown territories.

The 8th SOS is positioning the squadron to be able to have a timely response to any mission any where. The CV-22 doesn't need to be taken apart to fit on a C-5 to be transported to the location in need. It has the capacity to fly long ranges before refueling, and it can reach speeds of more than 275 mph.

"We don't need a runway because we can land vertically," Colonel Hill said. "It's a very agile, versatile aircraft that will allow us to do a rapid landing or take off anywhere."
The aircraft will also require a smaller equipment and maintenance package, unlike the older aircraft in Air Force Special Operations Command.

"As we globally respond, we're not tied to a huge logistics trail," said Lt. Col. Darryl Sheets, 8th SOS assistant director of operations. "It has a high altitude capability and speed, allowing us to do the mission under the cover of night."

The concept for the CV-22 was born from the Eagle Claw disaster in 1980. The need for an aircraft to cover long distances quickly with few refuelings, have the ability to convert to helicopter mode and remain as quiet as possible was in need then, as it is now.

During the first year with the new aircraft, the 8th SOS will be building up the squadron to handle the capabilities set before them. The crews and other squadron members will be working with other special operations forces to define and fine-tune the tactics, techniques, and procedures and potentials that lie ahead.

"This is where it starts, when the plane is delivered," Colonel Hill said. "The other crews are in training, and initial operating capabilities are being defined."

In the very near future, the 8th SOS will begin working with other squadrons and special operations forces on how the CV-22 can be best utilized.

"We're going to get out with teams and see how they want to use it (CV-22) and how it can help them complete their missions," Colonel Sheets said.

The squadron will not only work with internal teams but will interact with forces Department of Defense-wide, conducting exercises with other assets.

"We haven't begun to explore the possibilities that are out there," Colonel Hill said. "Aside from our primary mission, we can handle personnel recovery, resupply and psychological operations, too."

The 8th SOS has plans to work closely with the 9th SOS, 15th SOS and the 73rd SOS on refueling and to eventually work with other tankers, giving them a strategic advantage and enabling them to go global.

"Right now, we're conducting different refueling tests with the 9th, 15th and 73rd SOS, trying out different pods and working to train our crews and theirs on how to refuel this aircraft," Colonel Sheets said.

While the squadron is gearing up for the arrival of the CV-22, they might be short on manpower and space, but the one thing they don't lack is motivation.

"We've got all fields of experience in our squadron," Colonel Hill said. "We're all driving for the same goal - getting the capability right. At the end of the day, it's the people in the program that make the difference."