A London Daily Mail report that the V-22 is “the SAS’s deadly new weapon in the war against Islamic State terrorists threatening to bring murder and bloodshed to the streets of Britain” has Pentagon and Osprey fleet insiders giggling and Bell-Boeing executives doing some wishful thinking.
The Daily Mail told us that the SAS (Special Air Service) was either buying or leasing Ospreys from the U.S. Air Force and that U.K. special operations troops “on high alert to respond to a Paris-style strike in this country are training to use the V-22 Osprey.”
How Osprey makers Bell Helicopter and Boeing wish it were so. The companies, which make the Osprey in a 50-50 partnership, have been trying for years to get the Royal Navy to buy V-22s but, so far, the U.K. defense budget contains no money for any. If the SAS is interested, that would be news to the companies.
Aside from the overly optimistic sales report, the Daily Mail erred in reporting that the Osprey “has machine guns installed in the nose and on the rear ramp.” A 7.62mm or .50-caliber machine gun can be placed on the Osprey’s rear ramp, and often is by Marine Corps and Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) crews when the ramp is open. But the V-22’s lack of a forward-firing gun has inspired complaints for years. The Naval Air Systems Command program office developed a forward-firing belly gun for the V-22 a few years back but this Interim Defensive Weapons System is rarely used because of its weight, complexity and bulk.
AFSOC won’t officially comment on the Daily Mail’s report that SAS troops have been training on CV-22B Ospreys, but on that point, the tabloid may have put 2 and 2 together and gotten 22. The U.S. and U.K., like the U.S. and a lot of other countries, have had a pilot exchange program for years. British pilots routinely train to fly U.S. planes, from V-22s and MQ-9 Reapers to F-22 Raptor fighter jets.
SAS troops also may have taken familiarization rides or even trained on Air Force CV-22 Ospreys in Britain. AFSOC’s 7th Special Operations Squadron, which flies CV-22Bs, is based at RAF Mildenhall.
“AFSOC conducts training with various allied partners around the world to enhance joint/international interoperability to be able to successfully conduct our global special operations mission,” AFSOC spokesman Lt. Col. Colin “Pete” Hughes said. “However, we cannot discuss any specifics about individual units or organizations our aircraft are used to train due to operational security concerns.”
Hughes declined to comment on the Daily Mail’s assertion that in the event of an ISIL attack in London, SAS troops “will swoop into action” aboard Ospreys. As the old newspaper adage goes: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.