New aircraft specialize in stealth

By Gabriel Monte: Freedom New Mexico

Capt. Mike Holding stood before an aircraft that looked as if it came out of a science fiction movie.

The aircraft has the best of both worlds, he explained, because it can hover like a helicopter but can fly twice as fast.

“This is the neatest thing, nothing else in the world can do what this thing can do,” said Holding, who is assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron in Hurlburt Field, Fla.

A CV-22 Osprey aircraft played a Decepticon robot in the movie “The Transformers,” but in real life the aircraft would perform extraction and infiltration operations for the military, Holding said.

The Osprey was part of a Special Operations Command aircraft display Monday that also included three types of C-130 aircraft, which will soon call Cannon Air Force Base home.

The display was part of a change of command ceremony at the base, which officially changed from the 27th Fighter Wing to the 27th Special Operations Wing.

The special operations aircraft are built for quick extraction and infiltration of troops and supply drop operations, according to Chief Master Sgt. Brian Vander Wilt.

The aircraft, which are bigger than the sleek F-16 fighter jets of the 27th Fighter Wing, will need larger hangers.

“Very few of our fleet can fit in the current constructs,” said Lt. Col. Tony Bauernfeind of the 15th Special Operations Squadron.
Construction of larger hangers at the base to accommodate the aircraft will start soon, according to Special Operations commander Lt. Gen. Michael Wooley.

“We’ve got some money allocated for construction,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process that will take many months.”

The timeline for construction of the hangars is still being determined, according to a Cannon spokesman.

For security reasons, the 27th Special Operations Wing aircraft won’t carry insignias, nor will the pilots and crew.

“AFSOC does not label where they’re from,” Vander Wilt said.

Among the aircraft that will be taxiing on the Cannon flight line is the MC-130W Combat Spear aircraft, said Master Sgt. Philippe Singer, who has been assigned to Cannon.

The Combat Spears, which require a six-man flight crew, are designed for delivering and retrieving commandos in hostile areas, he said.

The 98-foot-long prop plane carries about 140 troops, Vander Wilt said.

Three Combat Spears are assigned to Cannon at the moment, Singer said.

Another C-130 squadron that will call Cannon home is composed of MC-130H Combat Talons, which specialize in operating in low-visibility environments.

The Combat Talons perform the same job as the Combat Spears but have additional radar units, which makes it more capable for sneaking troops in without detection.

“This thing does what most 130s can’t do with all we can see with our radar,” Sgt. Jesse Mahon said, standing in front of the aircraft, which has a bat emblem on its the side.

Holding said the Air Force is still experimenting with the $88 million Ospreys. The U.S. Marine Corps is the only military branch that has an Osprey squadron.

Holding said Air Force pilots train on Marine Ospreys for a year before experimenting with the Air Force version in Albuquerque.
But two Air Force Osprey squadrons are slated for operation in two years, he said.