MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. (July 6, 2011) --
For the second time in two months, a team from the Israeli Air Force visited 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing units at Marine Corps Air Station New River to evaluate the Marine Corps' MV-22 Osprey, and aircraft that the Israelis, according to some reports, see as a possible platform for search and rescue operations, and for covert special operations.
The first IAF visit, May 16-26, was conducted by Lt. Col. Nimrod Golan, a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot, and Lt. Col. Avi Carmeli, a CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter pilot and Navy graduate test pilot, both with the Israeli Air Force. That was followed June 13-23 by a seven-man team led by Golan and Carmeli.
"An invitation came from the Marines to the Israeli Air Force to explore this aircraft and though currently, there is no procurement process on the table, we were very happy to follow this invitation," said Golan. "We are looking at the aircraft, trying to understand how the Osprey can contribute to our operational requirements and also have an understanding of its implementation. In addition, this is a great opportunity to enhance our relationship and cooperation with the Marines."
The Israeli pilots spent their first visit with Marines of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204 gaining an overall familiarization of the Osprey and examining its capabilities related to reducing the risks to pilots, aircrews and passengers on the battlefield. The overall intent of the visit was to learn about MV-22 systems and performance, and to become "well oriented" with the aircraft.
"In order to be prepared for our June visit, we had to get some basic knowledge and basic skills, which is what '204 gave us," said Golan. "We were exposed for the first time to this technology called tiltrotor, and not just exposed academically ... it was an amazing experience."
Their second visit, with Marine Tiltrotor Test and Evaluation Squadron 22 and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, "... was the core of the whole evaluation process," said Golan, as the Israelis looked more deeply into the aircraft's capabilities and maintenance process. "We conducted a variety of flights in order to operationally evaluate the aircraft. We got the tools the last time we were here," said Golan. "Now we are flying to learn to operate."
After spending time in simulators, the visitors experienced the full capabilities of the aircraft with training flights that included familiarization, tactical approaches, confined area landings, low altitude tactics, formations and night flights with the goal of assessing the aircraft's potential value to the IAF. With only 10 hours of MV-22 flight time, one of the visiting CH-53 pilots, flying a VMM-365 Osprey, conducted aerial refueling with a KC-130J from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252, where he was rated as "on par with any other transition pilot."
Perhaps most importantly, the visiting pilots experienced the MV-22's trademark features of speed, range and maneuverability - proven advantages over the helicopters that the Osprey has replaced. They learned, first hand, how the Osprey can keep its crews and passengers above the threat of ground fire during flight, and how its maneuverability, particularly its ability to rapidly accelerate and decelerate, reduces exposure to threats during approach and departure. As 2nd MAW Commanding General Maj. Gen. Jon Davis has been known to say, "By the time the bad guys know you're there, you're already gone.
As with any military personnel exchange, other benefits were realized. Both visits were a learning experience for the seasoned Israeli pilots on how U.S. Marines operate, and for the Marines who worked with them.
"We are not too different from each other, we think the same and understand each other very well," said Carmeli.
"We came to agree on most topics and how to accomplish the missions." Golan added, "The Marines did a marvelous job with their hospitality and professionalism, it took a lot of effort and they are very good people here."