The U.S. Air Force maintains an elite community of warriors whose job it is to rescue at-risk combatants and civilians. Sometimes they are downed pilots, sometimes they are troops trapped behind enemy lines, sometimes they are non-combatants who could be massacred. The service has recently begun a long-overdue effort to recapitalize its aging search-and-rescue helicopters with a new Combat Rescue Helicopter. That program needs to be carried out expeditiously, but there’s a problem: conventional rotorcraft can’t accomplish some rescues in the vast expanses of regions like the Western Pacific and North Africa because their range and speed is too limited. The Air Force has determined that what’s needed is a mixed fleet including CV-22B Ospreys — tilt-rotor aircraft that combine the vertical agility of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing airplane. A handful of Ospreys could cover all of the Western Pacific or the Middle East. Without them, though, many at-risk personnel will go unrescued. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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