Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — Air Force Special Ops Osprey fleet grounded

A U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey takes flight on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006, during a rehearsal in preperation for the ceremonial arrival of the Osprey to Hurlburt Field, Fla. . The ceremony, which takes place on Nov. 16, is part of the Hurlburt Field’s Heritage to Horizon Commemoration, reflecting on the remarkable heritage of the Air Commandos, reaffirming thier commitment to the Global War on Terrorism and resolving to continually expand their capabilities. The commemoration cermeony also pays tribute to the redesignation of the 16th Special Operations Wing (SOW) to the 1st SOW, and to the Air Force’s 60th birthday. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali E. Flisek) (Released)

The Air Force Special Operations Command has grounded its entire fleet of CV-22 Ospreys due to two recent safety incidents involving the aircraft’s clutch. 

We’ll share what we know about the safety issue and the ensuing problems, plus more on new Taiwanese air drills, a planned Russian military exercise involving China’s forces and recent U.S. airstrikes in Somalia. 

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Ospreys fleet grounded by Special Ops

The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) has grounded its fleet of 52 CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft after it was discovered the aircraft’s clutch was causing safety issues.  

The standdown of the Ospreys, first reported by Breaking Defense, was ordered by AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. Jim Slife on Tuesday. 

What’s wrong?: The decision stems from an “increased number of safety incidents” involving the Ospreys, including two in the past six weeks and a total of four since 2017, an AFSOC official told the outlet.   

“The safety of our Airmen is of the utmost importance, therefore no AFSOC CV-22s will fly until we will determine the cause of the hard clutch engagements and risk control measures are put in place,” command spokeswoman Lt. Col. Becky Heyse said in a statement to Breaking Defense.   

The exact issue: AFSOC has discovered there is an issue with “hard clutch engagement.” Heyse said the clutch that connects one of an Osprey’s two engines to the propeller rotor is slipping for reasons unknown, forcing the aircrew to immediately land the aircraft.   

  • No injuries or deaths have been caused by the issue “due in large part to the skill and professionalism of our Air Commandos who operate the CV-22,” Heyse added.  
  • It is unknown how long the aircraft will be grounded. 

Getting to the bottom of it: AFSOC said it will work with the V-22 Joint Program Office and industry partners to further understand and fix the issue. The CV-22 is made by Bell-Boeing, while its engines are made by Rolls-Royce. 

Deadly past incidents: The decision to ground the Ospreys follows two accidents that killed nine Marines earlier this year involving the Marine Corps’ MV-22B version of the aircraft.   

A June 8 Osprey crash in in California killed five Marines, while a crash in Norway in March killed four Marines. 

Read the full story here 

Taiwan counters Chinese war games with own drills

Taiwan on Wednesday flew F-16 fighter jets in response to China’s recent military drills near the Taiwan Strait. 

Reuters reported that the flights, a show of force in front of media, included ground forces rapidly uploading weapons such as Harpoon anti-ship missiles onto the fighter jets. 

Taiwan’s defense ministry spokesperson Sun Li-fang told reporters that the drills were an opportunity “to test all the training we normally do, and through this improve our current methods and raise our combat effectiveness.” 

Some background: China, which views Taiwan as its territory, has been holding war games – to include live fire exercises in the waters around and the skies above the island – following a visit in early August by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Five U.S. lawmakers have since trekked to Taiwan on Sunday and Monday. 

A day ahead of the Taiwanese drills, China’s ambassador to the United States Qin Gang warned Washington that any more visits by U.S. lawmakers or additional arms sales could further worsen tensions in the Asia-Pacific.

SPEAKING OF DRILLS…

Reuters also reported Wednesday that Chinese troops will participate in a military exercise hosted by Russia known as “Vostok,” meaning “East.” 

Beijing insisted the decision to join the war games was “unrelated” to tensions over Taiwan or to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, claiming it is part of a bilateral agreement between the two countries. 

This wouldn’t be the first time the two countries have joined together in drills since Kremlin forces attacked Ukraine in late February. 

Beijing and Moscow in May held military exercises as President Biden met with U.S. allies in Asia. 

 Vostok will run from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, with additional unidentified foreign forces to also participate. 

The last such exercises took place in 2018.

Pentagon: US airstrike in Somalia kills militants

Defense officials on Wednesday claimed a U.S. airstrike against al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia killed 13 militants, the deadliest such strike against the extremist group in months.   

The details: The airstrike targeted the al Qaeda-linked fighters on Sunday in a remote location near Teedaan, in Somalia’s central region, as the militants were “actively attacking Somali National Army forces,” according to a statement from U.S. Africa Command (Africom).  

The command’s initial assessment found that no civilians were injured or killed as part of the strikes, the statement claimed.   

Frequent strikes: This is the second U.S. military strike in Somalia within a week. Africom on Aug. 9 conducted three airstrikes outside Beledweyne — also in support of the Somali National Army — that killed four al-Shabaab terrorists.  

“The Federal Government of Somalia and the U.S. remain committed to fighting al-Shabaab to prevent the deaths of innocent civilians,” the statement notes. “Violent extremist organizations like al-Shabaab present long-term threats to Somali, regional and U.S. interests.” 

An earlier decision: The strikes follow President Biden’s May decision to redeploy up to 500 U.S. troops in East Africa to Somalia as the administration looks to reestablish a small presence in the country to counter al-Shabaab, al Qaeda’s largest and best-financed global affiliate. 

 
Read that story here

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement will hold Day 2 of its “Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems Summit,” at 8:50 a.m.   
  • The National Defense Industrial Association will hold its 2022 Space Warfighting Integration Forum with opening keynote remarks from Lt. Gen. John Shaw, deputy commander U.S. Space Command, at 10:15 a.m.  
  • The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments will hold a webinar on “China’s Strategic Choices” and accompanying report, “China’s Strategic Choices: A New Tool for Assessing the PLA’s Modernization,” with former U.S. Indo-Pacific Command head retired Adm. Philip Davidson, at 11 a.m.   
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will welcome Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah to the Pentagon at 11 a.m. 
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies will host a discussion on “Bosnia Herzegovina in Crisis,” with former Bosnia Herzegovina Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija, at 12 p.m.

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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