I write this CV-22 Osprey introduction on the 24th of April 2020, 40 years after Operation EAGLE CLAW, the attempt to rescue 52 hostages held by the Iranians in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. It is appropriate to remember those courageous special operators who risked all in this attempt. But all was not lost, for today the CV-22 and its crews and maintainers are how Air Force special operators could help make a similar operation successful.
The CV-22 was born from a joint service program in the 1970s where the basic Air Force special operations requirement was established and what would be designated the replacement for AFSOC’s MH-60 and MH-53 helicopters. Eventually only the Air Force and Navy/Marine Corps stood, and the Marines became the lead acquisition service based upon their need for greater numbers of aircraft.
Over the years that led up to delivery of training CV-22s to the 58th SOW in July 2006, and the operational aircraft to the 1st SOW in January 2007, the program experienced many fits and starts, but dedicated and visionary airmen from the Pentagon, to AFSOC and USSOCOM, and down to the 1st SOW nurtured the vision until it became a reality. During my tenure as AFSOC Commander, I was asked, to again recertify the special operations requirement for this covert infiltration/exfiltration, fast, refuelable, long-range vertical take-off and landing capability. It is no secret that I had concerns with the program. In 1991 I had my first look at the Marine MV-22 test aircraft during a refueling stop at Hurlburt Field. Later that very day, the aircraft and crew were lost on approach to Cherry Point MCAS, NC. This gave me cause to reevaluate my own views. I saw dimly a great capability, but also an aircraft with many moving parts and consequent maintainability challenges. Yet, it was the only future capability I could envision that would drastically improve the opportunity for success for a future long-range infiltration and exfiltration mission with similar Operation EAGLE CLAW requirements. I saw many growing pains with the CV-22, but as has been proven, the men and women of AFSOC have been up to the task. The CV-22 has never let us down and should an EAGLE CLAW situation ever return, the weapon system and its people are ready to make those EAGLE CLAW warriors proud. And this generation of all Air Commandos still have “THE GUTS TO TRY.”
Bruce L. Fister, Lt Gen, USAF (Retired)
2d AFSOC Commander