New Google Maps imagery shows 9 V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft at airbase in Kuwait

Dec 30 2014 - 7 Comments

One of our readers has pointed an interesting detail he has found on Google Maps: the presence of a huge contingent of U.S. V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft in Kuwait.

At least twice in the last months, U.S. Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft have conducted missions in Syria or Iraq.

On Jul. 3, some V-22 aircraft were used to carry Delta Force commandos to a campsite in eastern Syria where ISIS militants were believed to hold American and other hostages (that had been moved by the time the commandos attacked the site).

On Aug. 13, V-22s deployed military advisers, Marines and Special Forces on Mount Sinjar to coordinate the evacuation of Yazidi refugees.

Besides their participation in these missions, little is known about the Osprey involvement in the war on Islamic State.

However, there are reasons to believe that V-22 are deployed in theater to play an active role in Operation Inherent Resolve: in fact, as pointed out by our reader Brian Ostrander, a “Google Maps fanatic,” at least 9 Ospreys were depicted on a parking apron at Ahmed al Jaber airbase, in Kuwait, on a satellite image dating back to the end of October.

Although the tiltrotors could have visited the Kuwaiti airport on a ferry flight to somewhere else, or may have just returned to their homebase by the time this article is published, it seems reasonable to believe that the airfield, one of the main hubs for several U.S. and allied aircraft involved in air strikes, is the main operating location of the V-22s and the ones clearly visible in the imagery represent the contingent of Ospreys deployed in the region to perform special tasks in Syria and/or Iraq.

The resolution of the image available on Google Maps or Google Earth prevents a clear identification of the variant: hence the aircraft can be either Marines MV-22s or Air Force’s CV-22s.

There are several reasons why such assets were (and, most probably, still are) deployed in Kuwait: they may be ready to conduct special operations, including infiltration and exfiltration missions, as those performed last summer, or they may be part of the forces tasked with Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) missions in case one of the aircraft is either downed or crashes for a failure “behind the enemy lines” as happened to the Jordanian F-16 last week.

During the Air War in Libya, MV-22A Osprey from the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) performed a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel, or “TRAP” mission, in deep into the Libyan territory to rescue the aircrew of a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle crashed during Operation Odyssey Dawn.

Noteworthy, the new Google Maps imagery shows several more aircraft, including Saudi Tornados, some F-5s, Mirage 2000s and (what looks like) Qatari Alpha Jets.

H/T Brian Ostrander for the heads-up

Image credit: Google Maps