Crew of rare osprey aircraft train in Gulfport

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - If you've driven by the Air National Guard base this week you may have noticed some unusual planes. They look like something straight from a Transformers movie, but are in fact a very versatile weapon for our military. They're called "Osprey."

Don't let its odd looks fool you. The Osprey aircraft is a very useful tool for the United States Marines and the Air Force.

"The V-22 is a great platform," explains Colonel Jim Slife, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing. "It fields a niche capability that we've had, we've really recognized since the Desert One fiasco, and that is the ability to get large numbers of people into and out of small areas at long range."

Major Mike Rendos has been flying the V-22 for nearly six years.

"It's a revolutionary aircraft that no other country, or even the United States has seen before," he says. "It's the best of both worlds and a dream to fly."

Half plane, half helicopter, the V-22 Osprey is unique, to say the least. There are three stationed at the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport right now. They're visiting from the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field in Florida for a series of training exercises.

"This is an inspection from our headquarters," says Col. Slife. "It takes a look at us once every two or three years, to check and make sure we're ready to do our combat missions."

But you probably won't notice much of their combat exercises while the Ospreys are here. Much of the training takes place on the ground, or flying over Stennis.

"The southern Mississippi area has a lot of great military training venues for us, so we take advantage of that on a pretty regular basis. But this is the first time in the last 20 years that we've come over here and staged," Col. Slife explains.

The visiting Osprey will be training in South Mississippi through the first week of March, before heading back to Hurlburt Field, just outside Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

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