The SAS have a new deadly weapon in their fight against ISIS terrorist attacks on UK soil.
The elite special forces of the British Army could deploy to any part of the UK in the event of a terror attack using a tilt-rotor multi-mission military aircraft nicknamed the “Transformer,” capable of vertical take-off and landing.
In the event of an attack, the UK’s elite fighting force will swoop into action on a £43 million heli-plane nicknamed the ‘Transformer’.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that SAS troops on high alert to respond to a Paris-style strike in this country are training to use the V22 Osprey at Stirling Lines, their regimental headquarters at Credenhill, near Hereford.
The Osprey is almost twice as fast as the SAS’s current fleet of transport helicopters and can carry at least 24 fully equipped personnel. With a top speed of 360mph it can deploy soldiers from Hereford to London in 30 minutes to bolster the SAS’s anti-terror squad which is permanently based in the capital, and to Manchester in about the same time.
The Osprey has machineguns installed in the nose and on the rear ramp. Its range is also much greater than transport helicopters currently in service. It can fly for up to 1,000 miles or eight hours without refuelling, meaning that if terrorists launch strikes across the UK, the same aircraft could fly troops to several locations.
Because British forces have never flownthe Osprey, UK pilots are being trained by the US Air Force.
An SAS source said last night: ‘This is an essential new piece of equipment for us which will make it much easier and faster for us to respond in the event of an attack. With its vertical take-off and landing capability we could fly directly from Hereford and land in any city, even in a confined space.’
While critics of the Osprey point to the aircraft’s poor safety record – 36 military personnel have been killed since its first test flight in the United States – it has performed well in trials with the SAS. Soldiers have also parachuted from the Osprey and abseiled from it on to a building as part of a hostage rescue exercise.
The Osprey’s ability to perform as a helicopter and as a fixed-wing aircraft is due to proprotors – the name given to the three 19ft-long rotors attached to each wing.
It takes off like a conventional helicopter then the proprotors and engines rotate through 90 degrees to turn it into a fixed-wing aircraft.
The aircraft’s Rolls-Royce engines generate enough horsepower for the Osprey to climb at an impressive 36ft per second, making it a faster, more elusive target than a helicopter.
It can also fly at up to 26,000ft, thereby avoiding enemy missiles, while its carbon-fibre fuselage reduces the impact of bullets and rockets.
In November last year a Ministry of Defence blueprint for military spending priorities promised to upgrade the UK’s helicopter and aircraft fleet.
Then in January, the commander of the UK’s Joint Helicopter Command, Major General Richard Felton, said he wanted to acquire hi-tech helicopters for ‘specific operations and missions’ – a phrase widely interpreted as a reference to Britain’s Special Forces.
Boeing, which manufactures the Osprey, has also confirmed UK interest in the aircraft but it was unclear last night whether the SAS’s Ospreys have been purchased, or leased from the US Air Force.
On Friday, David Cameron announced that 1,000 extra armed police are to be deployed across the country. On the same day, a chilling IS plot to behead soldiers emerged after a British jihadi was convicted of planning an attack at RAF bases.
A source said last night that an SAS team of up to 25 soldiers were scrambled from their Hereford base to London on Wednesday, March 16, following a terror alert. An MoD spokesman said: ‘We do not comment on Special Forces.