From Iraq Insertion to the Tiltrotor Enterprise: The Creation of a Multi-Domain Capability for the U.S. Forces

By Robbin Laird

As the United States faces a global overload of strategic challenges and the concomitant challenge of shaping an effective and capable force to deal with these challenges but having serious budget stringencies, leveraging the unique capabilities which the United States already possesses is crucial.

It is nice to think of 6th generation aircraft, new AI autonomous systems, new weapons, and the like, but adapting what you have and leveraging unique capabilities which you possess are a key part of the way forward.

Whether it be the Aegis global enterprise, or the F-35 global enterprise or the tiltrotor enterprise, the United States has shaped unique warfighting capabilities which it can leverage as it shapes effective forces moving forward for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.

I have written extensively about the Aegis global enterprise and the F-35 global enterprise, but we should also focus on a core capability which the United States has crafted and evolved since its introduction into Iraq in 2007, namely the tiltrotor enterprise.

If the Chinese had developed this capability and had built on its use since 2007 and its proliferation in the joint force, I guarantee there would be a robust literature on this threat and how do deal with it.

But since we have done it, we spend as much time criticizing it as understanding how the tiltrotor enterprise has transformed the capabilities of the USMC, the USAF and now the US Navy with the US Army next up.

This is a story of a unique capability which has reshaped the USMC in ways that are unimaginable without it. It has given the USAF special operational capabilities and now the US Navy will experience a very different capability and approach to sustaining its distributed fleet.

And as the US Army focuses on how to distribute its force, the new tiltrotor capability will become a backbone for an effort to leverage speed and range which no rotorcraft possesses.

Over the years, I have done many interviews with USMC operators and maintainers of the MV-22. And with the development of a Navy variant, the CV-22B, I have begun to interview those involved in shaping this capability for the Navy as it shapes its new approach to distributed maritime operations.

The timeline of operational development since the introduction of the MV-22 in 2007 in Iraq has seen the expansion of the concept of operations of the USMC as the aircraft numbers and use multiplied over the past decade and a half.

The learning of the USMC and the evolution of industrial support and engineering capabilities for the platform have shaped new ways to use the aircraft for distributed operations across the spectrum of warfare.

And the creation of a core industrial capability to shape the drive forward in tiltrotor evolution coupled with the innovations of the Marines, the Air Force and the Navy is using the aircraft have created a unique tiltrotor enterprise.

How did we get here?

And what is the path forward?

And how might the U.S. military leverage this unique capability moving forward to deal with strategic challenges they face in global operations?

And how has the payload revolution which has enabled a kill web transformed the Osprey into a multi-domain warfighting capability as well?

Featured Photo: The V-280. Credit: Bell