Two MV-22B Ospreys, their big wingtip rotors facing forward in "airplane mode," are descending toward a Marine Corps outpost near the Syrian border when the second of the two tiltrotor transports shudders slightly.
"Hold on. Did you guys just see flares?" the pilot, Captain Newel Bartlett of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (VMM-263), asks his crew over the internal communications system.
"Yes sir," an enlisted crew chief in the back cabin replies. At about 3,600 feet over the orangish and empty western Iraqi desert, one of the Osprey's defensive systems has spit out some anti-missile flares.