U.S. defense officials on Friday announced plans to move more troops and aircraft into Iraq for the purpose of search and rescue.
The move comes after a Jordanian pilot was captured and brutally executed by the Islamic State Group. The United Arab Emirates stopped air strikes over Syria in the wake of the pilot's capture.
Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, a 2,500 strong element of Marines operating in Iraq and around the Middle East, is the rumored option to provide aircraft for search-and-rescue missions for Operation Inherent Resolve. The unit includes a squadron of Ospreys, now based in Kuwait, that were tasked late last year to lead tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP) missions for the entire U.S. Central Command Middle East theater of operations.
In a Feb. 5 interview with Marine Corps Times, Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford confirmed that mission set, but declined to demurred from describe ing current operations.
"Anything that we would do for TRAP in CENTCOM is part of the special purpose MAGTF that is there. So they have a squadron of V-22s, those are all available to the combatant commander," Dunford said. "What I can't tell you now is how many of those they said they want to preposition somewhere else."
Dunford added that the V-22 was a natural fit for the TRAP mission given its "speed, payload and range" — far exceeding that of many traditional rotor aircraft.
Spokesmen for Marine Corps Central Command and for SP-MAGTF-CR-CC did not respond to Marine Corps Times inquiries about the reports.
One apparent sticking point in the decision to forward base search and rescue aircraft in Iraq has to do with the need to move in enough personnel to conduct maintenance and the logistics associated with upkeep. Multiple outlets quoted a U.S. defense official who cited "considerations other than flying distance" that played into decision-making. It's not clear how many personnel are part of the planned move.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. had initially considering moving V-22s into Turkey, but had received pushback from the country's government.