A Tiltrotor Squadron in Afghanistan

Scenes of a Marine unit flying the incredible, versatile Osprey.

(Ed Darack)

Writer and photographer Ed Darack writes in our April/May 2010 issue of the time he spent in southern Afghanistan in December 2009 with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (VMM-261).

Many of the Osprey pilots used to fly the Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight, known colloquially to the Marines as the “Phrog.” “I felt safe in the Phrog because it had two .50-caliber machine guns,” says Captain Chris Meixell of VMM-261. "The greatest safety advantage [of the Osprey] is the performance of the aircraft itself, which allows us to climb quickly out of small-arms and shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile range.”

About this shot Darack says, “The pilots put the tip lights on for safety during nighttime and at dawn and dusk. They just started this one up—you can see the plume of white smoke.”


(Ed Darack)

This was “one of the few times that I was able to photograph an air-to-air sequence,” says Darack. “This is in the desert over southern Afghanistan, while flying from Kandahar Province into Helmand Province.”

Do the members of VMM-261 long for a “sexier” aircraft? “We’re an assault support platform,” said Major Will Grant. “We don’t need aggressive nose-high altitudes, we don’t need aggressive turns, we don’t need to do aerobatics.”

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