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VMX-22 lands on station to test new weapons system

By Pfc. M. Daniel Sanchez | | August 26, 2006

Two of Marine Tiltrotor Test and Evaluation Squadrons 22’s newest models, the MV-22 Osprey “Block B”, arrived here Aug. 25 and were joined by two MV-22 Osprey “Block A” aircraft Aug. 26 to test its new ramp-mounted weapon system.

The Osprey squadron, based out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N. C., will test the new weapon system on the station’s ranges through Sunday.

The Osprey squadron’s primary mission here is to evaluate the performance of a rear-mounted M-240D medium machine gun.

The weapon will be tested at different altitudes and different flight speeds while landing, taking off and flying to determine its effectiveness in combat.

The M-240D is similar to the M- 240G except the butt stock has been removed and it uses a double trigger similar to that of the M-2 .50-caliber Machine Gun. However, the

“Block B” has an egress kit which contains a butt stock and single trigger assembly, in case the Marines would need to take the weapon off the aircraft.

The new weapons system, combined with the Osprey’s chaff and flare system, which provides 360-degree defensive protection, will allow the crew chiefs to lay down sufficient suppressive fire when dropping off or picking up Marines in a hostile environment, said Cpl. Lawrence Jones, VMX-22 crew chief and native of Escondido, Calif.

The great thing about the M-240 is that it can be changed into a hand-carried weapon in a matter of seconds, he said. In fact, all the crew chiefs have contests to see who can switch it from mounted mode to carried mode the fastest.

Perhaps the best feature of the weapon system is that each of the M-240s is brand new, said Jones.

Jones joked that he hasn’t seen a rust-free gas tube since he has been in the Marine Corps.

This is a great opportunity for the Marines of VMX-22 because they are able to do something very few Marines can, said Jones.

“We get to work with the Marine Corps’ baby -- its pet project,” said Jones.

In addition to testing the new weapon system, VMX-22 has also conducted various flying operations to see how the aircraft performs in the Yuma climate. Yuma has fantastic terrain that will put the Osprey to the test, said Maj. David Lane, VMX-22 assistant operations officer.

There are places on Yuma’s ranges where the pilots can land on slopes and fly through mountainous terrain. This is the best place to get a good idea of what flying in Iraq will be like, said Lane, a native of Paris, Ark. Training in Yuma will really help shape the use and scope of the weapon system and give the Osprey pilots good experience flying in different climates, said Lane.

VMX-22 also recently finished testing the weapon system in North Carolina where it performed very well, said Maj. Doug Sanders, VMX-22 operational test director for the weapons system. There are still a few kinks to work out, but the aircraft has performed superbly thus far.

The “Block B” models are going to be the version of the Osprey the operating forces will use to conduct combat missions, said Sanders. That is why it is so important to continue testing and working with the aircraft.

With its new rear weapon system and upgraded avionics, the Osprey is that much closer to what the Marine Corps has envisioned, said Sanders.

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