—JOHN A. TIRPAK, AF Ass’n
Lt. Gen Bradley Heithold, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, said on Wednesday he’s “comfortable” with the size and makeup of AFSOC’s aircraft fleet and buying plans, with one exception: he believes the Air Force should consider buying a few more CV-22s as attrition reserve aircraft. During the four-star forum at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., Heithold said it’s a sure bet, based on actual operational usage, that some CV-22s will be “nipped” in the line of duty. The tiltrotor aircraft does everything it was advertised to do, and special operators “come off the CV-22 shooting,” but that means the aircraft will also be subject to hostile fire. Over time, the inventory may fall below requirements, he said. It’s important to think about this now because the V-22 line “will shut down in a few years,” said Heithold. Otherwise, “I have the right aircraft at the right place,” he said of AFSOC’s special-mission MC-130s, AC-130 gunships, and other aircraft.