Estonian and U.S. Special Operation Forces operators conduct fast-rope training from a U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey, assigned to the 352d Special Operations Wing, during training near Amari, Estonia on Dec. 12. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army
The U.S. Air Force vision for 386 operational squadrons — an increase of 74 — includes 27 proposed special operations forces squadrons, an increase of seven from the current number.
While that increase would likely involve fixed-wing aircraft, such as Lockheed Martin AC-130 gunships and MC-130 Combat Talons, such augmentation also likely leaves room for one to two extra squadrons of Bell-Boeing CV-22 tiltrotors, said Rick Lemaster, Boeing's director of V-22 global sales and marketing.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson laid out the new Air Force vision this week at the Air Force Association annual conference in National Harbor, Maryland. Reconnaissance and intelligence assets are top of the list. The Air Force wants a 22-squadron increase, bringing the total C4ISR roster up to 62 units.
Air Force helicopter squadrons would also likely see an uptick due to the proposed expansion of SOF squadrons and a planned nine-squadron increase in combat-search-and-rescue units.
Lemaster said that industry will meet the current Air Force requirement for 54 CV-22s in the near term.
Cousin to the Marine Corps' MV-22, the CV-22 is flown by Air Force Special Operations Command. The Navy also has gotten into the Osprey game with the CMV-22, which it will use for carrier onboard delivery (COD) missions in place of the legacy C-2 Greyhound.