Saddam had cratered runways about every 3,000 or
4,000 feet, and we landed our Harriers and operated in
between craters. You can’t do that with a conventional
airplane. There are roughly 10 times as many 3,000-
foot runways in the world as there are 8,000-foot runways. When you think about expeditionary operations
in an unfriendly world, where we’re not sure of what
we’re going to find ashore, the F-35B gives you flexibility and a capability to be able to go anywhere. We don’t
have that in a non-STOVL airplane.
What is your assessment of the MV- 22
Osprey’s operational performance so far?
AMOS: I just came back from Afghanistan [in May]. For
the most part [on] that trip — and our trip there at
Christmas time — we spent all our time in the Marine
zone in the Ospreys. Marines are very confident in its ability to get in and out of zones. It carries a lot of Marines and
there’s no problem with carrying everything a Marine has
on him. Fully combat loaded, it [carries] 24 Marines.
Unless you get into the heavy-lift 53E, we don’t have
another capability that has that much power.
It’s got the ability to move Marines and their equipment rapidly around the battlefield. It’s got the best
safety record of any of the airplanes that we’re flying
right now, probably to include the Navy. It passed
100,000 hours just about two months ago. It’s really
doing well. The Marines love it. The air crews love it.
I’m very, very confident in the airplane.
When you go into a hot zone where the enemy is
around and you come in rapidly, drop off your Marines
and it’s time to get out of there, it’s like a Saturn rocket
coming out of the zone. We don’t have anything that can
compare to it, with how rapidly it will move out of the
zone and climb away from the threat. When we transit
around Afghanistan, we’re up there 10,000 feet. Nothing is
shooting at you at 10,000 feet. I think it’s found its place.
I was in the Pentagon in 2000, 2001, when it was a strug-
gle [for the program]. It’s a full-blown member of the fam-
ily now. It’s earned its street cred.
You’re increasing the number of unmanned aerial
vehicle (UAV) squadrons. What roles do you see
for unmanned systems in the future Marine
AMOS: I’m a big fan [of unmanned systems]. I understood
the value but I didn’t have the real sense of the combat
multiplier they are when we crossed the [Iraqi] border in
2003. I had two unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons under
my command. They became what I affectionately call the
“queen of the prom,” and they were flying around the
clock, earning their pay. You couldn’t get enough of them.
Everybody wanted a piece of the UAVs. Now we are going
to four squadrons — we already stood up a third one and
we’re going for a fourth. Their future is very bright.
I think, down the road, there will be a place for UAVs
in Marine TACAIR aviation. What you’ll see is probably a
blend of some hybrid UAVs that have a pretty significant
strike capability and a loiter capability. There’s a place in
Marine aviation for a UAV that’s much more capable than
what we are flying today. If we don’t acknowledge that
now, we’re really kind of living in the past.
U.S. MARINE CORPS
Amos grins as Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, then-sergeant major of the Marine
Corps, shares a story with approximately 2,000 Marines from 3rd Marine
Regiment during a visit to Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Feb. 10. For Amos, who
began his career as a first lieutenant with a Hawaii-based squadron, the visit to
Hawaii was his first as commandant.
What about unmanned ground
AMOS: We’ve tried a variety of
things. The easy one, of course, is our
EOD [explosive ordnance disposal].
It’s an unmanned ground vehicle, but
more robotic. We put a fair amount
of money into this thing called a
Burrow to carry our load. We’re trying to lighten the load on our
There’s a lot of experimentation
going on. I think the Army is looking at something that would be
almost a mechanized truck, not a
7-ton truck, [but] almost a flatbed-looking driving or crawling kind of
thing, like a movable pickup bed.
As the Marines move along, you
can throw your stuff [on it] —
ammunition, water — there’s a
place for that.