Feature Story

Flying into the fire

A Bell Boeing CV-22 prepares for takeoff in preparation for another nighttime, special operations mission

Department of Defense

A Bell Boeing CV-22 prepares for takeoff in preparation for another nighttime, special operations mission.

Flying low and fast in a CV-22, Capt. Will Thompson skillfully maneuvers the aircraft through a narrow, rugged mountain pass in the dead of night. With zero visibility, he depends solely on terrain following radar and skill to navigate.

Part of the elite 20th Air Force Special Operations Squadron, Thompson is inbound to drop 27 special forces assaulters on a covert mission in southern Afghanistan. Flying alongside another CV-22, the tandem is unaware of what they’re about to face.

With the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, or SOFIC, opening this week in Tampa, Fla., Thompson recalls a mission in late spring of 2011 that exemplifies the unparalleled skills and capabilities of U.S. Special Operations Forces and the CV-22.

“Approximately one mile out, we began experiencing small arms fire,” Thompson said. “And right as we were passing over it, I could say the valley exploded with fire. I’d never seen anything like it before.”

Watch the video to see the CV-22 in action and hear Thompson’s harrowing story.