It was June 12 in the Sangin Valley in southern Afghanistan. U.S. Marines had been fighting the Taliban all day and had suffered heavy casualties, including two killed. Several resupply convoys had been turned back by enemy attack. The Marines were running low on food, water, ammunition and medical supplies.
That’s when the Marines’ V-22 Osprey tiltrotor swooped in, carrying life-saving supplies — and machine gun fire.
What happened over the next five minutes or so highlights the incredible bravery of Marine air crews and the Corps’ growing confidence in the accident-prone, maintenance-intensive V-22, which takes off and lands like a helicopter but cruises like an airplane thanks to its rotating engine nacelles. But the incident in Sangin also underscores the continuing vulnerability of the lightly armed Osprey, after efforts to beef up the V-22′s armament failed.