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Winning the fight today--and tomorrow.

Marine Corps aviation's number-one priority is to support the ground force in winning our nation's wars. The current war in Afghanistan is today's reality: our amphibious air-ground force is fighting more than 400 nautical miles from the sea. Over the past 20 years, American amphibious forces have responded to crises and contingencies more than 100 times--a response rate more than double that of the Cold War--and most of these have been in the littorals. We will range across the spectrum of military operations in the next campaign, and we will do this with new systems and capabilities that maintain and strengthen our fundamental naval character.

The MV-22 Osprey represents the vanguard of assault support capability, and right now it is our disruptive technological advantage. At our current annual build rate of 30 aircraft, it is replacing our CH-46E aircraft at the rate of two squadrons per year, and we are well on the way to our planned total of 360. The Osprey has already completed three deployments to Iraq, is on its third to Afghanistan, and is on its third aboard ship with a Marine expeditionary unit (MEU). This aircraft is so quiet and fast, and flies so high and far, that it is not just changing aviation tactics---it is also changing infantry tactics as ground commanders realize the speed, shock, surprise, and battlefield flexibility they have with this capability.

In the same way the Osprey revolutionizes assault support, the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will revolutionize tactical air support of ground forces. The Marine Corps is buying 420 of these aircraft. JSF will fly from carriers and L-class ships and operate from austere sites, 3,000-foot runways, or matting anywhere in the world. It will lead the way ashore, disabling information nodes and grids, set up the rest of the aviation combat element for cold landing zones, and provide a complete picture of what infantry forces will face. It will serve as a bomb carrier and close air support platform, supporting Marines and Soldiers in contact with the enemy.

Our unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons have performed magnificently during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are employing the Shadow unmanned aerial system (UAS) for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and battlefield management, and we are looking to weaponize Shadow and our future UASs. We also are pursuing a cargo UAS and a high-flying, long duration Group 4 UAS to replace Shadow. Our new Small Tactical UAS program of record is also on solid ground, with the Integrator soon coming online.

Our helicopter force is also moving into the future. The CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter will carry the Marine Corps' middleweight force: it will be the only shipboard-compatible helicopter that can lift 100 percent of Marine Corps vertical lift equipment from amphibious shipping to inland objectives under high-altitude and hot-atmospheric conditions such as those found in Central Asia. The CH-53K will transport 27,000 pounds of external cargo out to a range of 110 nautical miles, nearly tripling our workhorse CH-53E's lift capability while fitting into the same shipboard footprint.

We have new utility and attack H-1s in the operating forces, replacing the Huey and the Cobra. These new helicopters add lift, range, speed, durability, weaponry, and tactical flexibility to amphibious task forces and Marine air-ground task forces (MAGTFs). The UH-1Y Venom has deployed aboard ship and demonstrated its superior lift and range, and the AH-1Z Viper is developing swiftly and smoothly into what will be the world's dominant attack helicopter. In November 2011 we will deploy the first "all-upgrades MEU," with the Y and Z models deploying at sea together for the first time.

The new KC-130J is now active throughout the force, and we will soon start on our reserve squadrons. Using the Harvest Hawk mission kit, this new Hercules can even provide a close air support capability to MAGTFs, augmenting the aircraft's traditional aerial refueling and lift roles. With the transition from the T model, warfighters can exploit fully the agility and rugged nature of this unique multimission assault support platform.

To control all of this hardware, our command-and-control units will be organized, trained, and equipped to deploy and employ open architecture systems, net-centric multifunctional agencies, and new facilities. Our aviation ground support remains our expeditionary "killer app." The ability to sustain ourselves anywhere in the world sets us apart, and those logistics make us the nation's expeditionary force in readiness.

Power projection from the sea is fundamental to our identity, and the aircraft we fly today and tomorrow in support of our ground forces are naval aircraft first. We cannot predict the time or place for the next war, but we can prepare and train for it. When the nation calls, your Marine Corps will be ready.

By Lt. Gen. Terry G. Robling, Deputy Commandant for Aviation
COPYRIGHT 2011 Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center
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Title Annotation:FLIGHTLINE
Author:Robling, Terry G.
Publication:Naval Aviation News
Date:Jun 22, 2011
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