US Military Squadron VMM-263 Ready to Write Next Chapter in Osprey Program
(Source: US Marine Corps; issued March 7, 2006)
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. --- The future of Marine Corps aviation took a large step forward as hundreds of Marines, Sailors, Airmen, Soldiers and family members gathered to watch a ceremony in which the first operational MV-22 Osprey squadron was activated here March 3.
“Commissioning (Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron-263) is a historic day for the ‘Thunder Chickens,’ for our Corps and for our nation,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Moore, 2d Marine Aircraft Wing commanding general. “We have introduced a transformational aircraft into our nation’s forces with the ‘Thunder Chickens.’”
A transformational aircraft because it capitalizes on both the best aspects of the rotary wing and the best aspects of the fixed wing turbo-propeller, Moore explained.
“The (Osprey) is much more survivable than the (CH-46E ‘Sea Knight’) because of its range and it’s speed,” said Moore. “It’s a much more capable aircraft and we expect it to perform (excellent) in battle.”
A capable aircraft that has been in the making since the early 1960’s, some feel the delay has produced the best result.
“I have to tell you, waiting for something this good has been worth while,” said Gen. Robert Magnus, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. “This is a tremendous aircraft. While we are at war, it is a tremendously more survivable platform for the Marines who are in the fight.”
VMM-263, home to more than 150 Marines and the successor to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-263 which cased its colors in June 2005, will carry on the proud name, “Thunder Chickens,” and also the legacy of the former CH-46E “Sea Knight” squadron.
Honored to carry on the name, “Thunder Chickens,” the Marines of VMM-263 are thrilled by the chance to become the first operational Osprey squadron, said Sgt. Maj. Grant VanOostrom, VMM-263 sergeant major.
“They are very excited because they see it as a culmination of those who have gone before them,” said VanOostrom. “They just happen to be the chosen ones who get to bring it into its current existence; we get to reap the rewards of others.”
And VMM-263 can be expected to reap the almost countless rewards, such as being able to travel at speeds of nearly 300 mph, twice the speed of any current helicopter, have up to five times the range of travel and carry three times the payload.
“The Osprey will allow us to self-deploy these aircraft from New River, or (Air Station) Miramar, across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to anywhere this great nation wants to plant its flag within two to three days,” said Magnus.
Uncertain of the exact date when the Osprey will be supporting ground forces overseas, the squadron feels assured that it will be in the near future.
“We expect VMM-263 to be deployed within the coming year,” said Moore. “We can’t give an exact date, because we aren’t 100 percent sure.”
“There are two things the American people should know about this aircraft,” said Gen. Michael W. Hagee, 33rd commandant of the Marine Corps, during his visit to Marine Corps Air Station New River Feb. 24. “One, it will change the way we fight; it’s faster, larger, air refuelable and the technology is state of the art. Two, it’s the safest aircraft in our inventory. It’s been tested and proven ready to perform.”
And though tremendous efforts will have to made by the “Thunder Chickens” before the first Osprey squadron is ready to deploy, a sigh of relief can be breathed by the Marines, families and friends of the program who sacrificed so much to get to where the stand up could be possible, said Moore.
“We are bringing forth the new capability to replace what has been the backbone of Marine aviation in the CH-46,” said Moore. “With that capability, we take rotary wing assault support, now tiltrotor wing assault support, ahead into the future and assure the success of Marines in battle. We are committing the Osprey to the gunfight.”
I still wouldn't ride in it.