Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Amarillo built Ospreys rescue downed F-15 pilot and WSO

- A U.S. Air Force fighter jet crashed in Libya after experiencing an equipment malfunction, but both crew members ejected safely and are now out of Libya and in U.S. hands, the U.S. military and a senior U.S. defense official said Tuesday.

A pilot and weapons officer aboard an F-15E Strike Eagle had flown from Aviano Air Base in Italy to Libya when the fighter experienced problems, the U.S. military command for Africa said in a statement. Both pilots ejected, the statement said.

The pilot and weapons officer suffered minor injuries but landed safely in two different places on Libyan soil, the military said.

The U.S. military dispatched a pair of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, about 100 miles off the coast of Libya, to pick up the pilot. He was then flown to the vessel, which has extensive medical facilities, military officials said.

The MV-22 Osprey Tiltrotor aircraft is assembled at the Textron-Bell-Boeing plant in Amarillo.

Marines rescued one using an M -22 Osprey — the first time the massive tilt-rotor craft has been used in a combat rescue..

The Osprey, which costs $100 million a copy, has long been the target of budget cutters in Washington, but has survived due to a large base of support from lawmakers representing states where its components are built.

Libyan rebels recovered the second crew member and "took good care of him" until coalition forces were able to reach him, a senior defense official said.

UPDATE: The pilot of a downed Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle fighter jet in Libya was reportedly rescued by Marines in an MV-22 Osprey, media reports said.

The jet crashed late Monday after two crew members safely ejected, U.S. Africa Command said in a statement. The aircraft, based out of RAF Lakenheath, England, was flying out of Aviano Air Base, Italy, in support of a no-fly zone approved by the U.N. Marine spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment, but the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., has been floating off the coast of Libya to provide support as needed in the Libyan mission, known as Operation Odyssey Dawn. AV-8B Harriers with the MEU participated in air strikes there over the weekend.

The Associated Press, citing an unnamed defense official, said one crew member was rescued by the Marines, while the other was taken in by rebel fighters in Libya. The Belfast Telegraph, a newspaper in the United Kingdom with a journalist in Libya, reported that the pilot was rescued by Marines and a weapons officer was taken in by rebels.

It was not clear who with the MEU may have participated in a rescue mission. The Corps sent infantrymen with Lejeune’s 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, to reinforce the unit after it became clear that it could be used in Libya. Most of the Marines with the MEU’s original ground combat unit — Battalion Task Force 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Lejeune — landed in Afghanistan in January to support combat operations in Helmand province, and are still there.

Ospreys with the MEU operate from ships with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and are from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (reinforced), out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.

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