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Air Force Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold meets with reporters at AFA's Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 15, 2014. Staff photo by Michael C. Sirak

Air Force Special Operations Command is fielding lightweight armor for its fleet of CV-22s tiltrotor aircraft to provide better protection for crewmembers and passengers in the airplane's aft section, said Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, AFSOC commander. "It comes in certain-sized sheets, if you will, and you kind of build an armored tub in the back of the airplane," he told reporters last week at AFA's Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. The armor package is configurable to the needs of the mission, he said. Installing the complete set of sheets adds some 800 pounds to the aircraft that crews balance by carrying less fuel at takeoff or fewer people. AFSOC is also looking for "simple solutions" for a forward-firing gun, he said. "There is still a demand for something that shoots forward when we go into a hot [landing zone]," said Heithold during the Sept. 15 press roundtable. The Osprey carries an aft gun today. Back in December 2013, three CV-22s took hostile fire and sustained moderate damage during what was supposed to be an uneventful evacuation of US noncombatants from South Sudan. (See also Attrition-Reserve Ospreys.)