Osprey deemed dangerous



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Osprey will endanger Marines in combat
Posted November 6th, 2007 in Military News
Design flaws still make tilt-rotor aircraft unacceptable for imminent Iraq deployment There's so much to admire about the Marine Corps. The fighting quality and spirit of the combat Marines who go into harm's way are second to none. For more than two centuries Marines have fought hard for this country, often with horrific death tolls, such as during the bloody Pacific Islands campaign during World War II.

During the Vietnam War, I had the privilege of working with Marine Corps helicopter gunship crews while running secret missions into Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam as a member of Army Special Forces.

I'm alive today thanks to the courage of Marine aviators, including men from HML 367, which had the unique radio call sign of "Scarface." Today's Marines in Scarface continue to fly into harm's way in Iraq and they continue to serve honorably.

However, there's an aviation and high command component of the Marine Corps that defies logic today by continuing to foist off the experimental tilt-rotor aircraft that flies like an airplane but takes off and lands in a helicopter mode of flight.

It converts to the helicopter mode after its two wings rotate 90 degrees upward, moving the two 38-foot rotors from a traditional airplane position to a locked position above the fusilage.

During the last two years, the Corps has kicked into high gear its public relations specialists and numerous supporters in aviation and military press touting its great potential as the Marines' aircraft of the future.

This is happening despite years of opposition from many quarters across the country, all of which are ignored by the Corps.

No desert testing

In the near future, the Marine Corps is going to begin to use the MV-22 Ospreys in the war zone, which is a desert, a sandy area of operations.

This will happen despite the fact that, as reported in the Oct. 8 edition of Time magazine, "The (M)V-22's tendency to generate a dust storm when it lands in desertlike terrain wasn't examined (during official tests) because 'an unusually wet spring resulted in a large amount of vegetation that prevented severe brownouts during landing attempts,' the Pentagon's top tester noted."

Thus, the MV-22 will go into a desert combat zone, carrying combat troops, without having been tested for how it performs in a desert environment.

Time's scathing article is one of the thorough pieces written about the MV-22's troubled past and inflated expectations by the Corps, and noted how the military-industrial-congressional complex has ignored major problems with this aircraft.

In 2006, former Marine Lee Gaillard penned a damning report for the Center for Defense Information, "V-22 Osprey: Wonder Weapon or Widow Maker?" Gaillard's report raised significant issues that have been ignored by the Corps or glossed over and respun by the public relations arm of the Corps.

What experience has taught me

But, my criticism stems from my personal experience of having run top-secret military operations for more than 18 months during the Vietnam War and from interviews with knowledgeable warriors in the Corps today and in the Special Operations Command based at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

My concerns are basically threefold:

1) The MV-22 until recently had no defensive weapon system on it, despite the fact that in 2000 then-Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones told me in an interview that he had demanded that one be placed on the tilt-rotor aircraft. Jones had wanted a weapon that could fire forward of the aircraft. However, after dragging their collective feet, program designers finally placed a small-caliber weapon on the ramp of the MV-22, which can fire only behind the aircraft and slightly to the sides ---- not forward. And, it can fire only when the ramp is down.

From my personal experience, when an aircraft goes into a landing zone, that's when it is the most vulnerable to enemy gunfire. With today's helicopters, everything from the old CH-46 and CH-53 to the newer UH-60 Blackhawk models have doorgunners on them that can protect the aircraft's flanks. The trained military personnel flying in the MV-22 will not be able to defend themselves from enemy fire.

2) The MV-22 has tiny windows that impede passengers' ability to see the terrain the aircraft is descending toward. Time and again during the Vietnam War, while flying in UH-1Ds, commonly called Hueys, we ---- as passengers in the choppers ---- were able to see land hazards and better prepare for the target. In the MV-22 the troops are essentially blind. Also, due to the configuration of the MV-22, previous passengers (i.e., young Marines) complained in surveys about getting queasy from flying in the Osprey and feeling sick when they landed.

3) Any military special operations troop will tell anyone who listens how vital quick insertions into the target area are in order to begin a successful operation. In 'Nam, we trained for hours exiting and entering helicopters quickly.

A key component of successful insertions was the chopper descending quickly into a landing zone, the troops exiting in a matter of a second or two, and the aircraft exiting the area ASAP.

Today's MV-22 can do neither: It can't descend rapidly into a landing zone ---- regardless of what a few Marine generals have said in recent months ---- although it can leave a target area quicker than it descends.

Critics of the troubled aircraft point to the April 1999 crash in Marana, Ariz., that killed 19 Marines as deadly proof that the aircraft isn't capable of a quick descent into an LZ. They say that aircraft crashed because it descended into the landing zone too quickly.

Also, it was revealed at that time that the MV-22 had a unique problem, a phenomenon that surfaced with helicopters called vortex ring state.

That phenomenon limits the rate of descent into a target by an MV-22. This means the Osprey will be a sitting duck going into a target ---- a defenseless sitting duck.

Officers concerned

In the last year, I've had informal discussions with special operations warriors who might someday find themselves riding in the Osprey to a target area.

One high-ranking general told me that the Green Berets who conduct clandestine operations behind enemy lines hold the MV-22 in utter contempt and feel it's a killer of men incapable of meeting the insertion/extraction capabilities of today's Blackhawks. "The only people who want this damned bird are the contractors and Marine generals who haven't been on the ground as a special operator," said one general.

A high-ranking Marine officer echoed that sentiment: "The ground pounders hoped the Marine Corps would get an aircraft that gets us into and out of target areas quickly, such as the Blackhawk. Instead, they gave us a billion-dollar space shuttle."

Endorsing their opinions, as quoted in Time, was Philip Coyle, the former top Pentagon weapons testing official, who said the V-22s aren't suited for "combat situations where they will have to do a lot of maneuvering."

Air Force repeating mistake

From a personal concern, there's one more element: The Air Force is purchasing 50 CV-22s, which are versions of the Osprey with "enhanced capabilities tailored" for the unique mission requirements of the Special Operations Command.

The exact specifications that make the CV-22 different from the MV-22 aren't specified in general press releases. However, the basic bird that costs more than $100 million per aircraft still has the same major flaws that I outlined earlier.

The only good news is the Air Force isn't scheduled to activate that unit until 2009, whereas in the weeks ahead, there's a good chance that the first MV-22 will fly into harm's way and crash. The first question will be: Did it crash and kill good Marines due to its inherent flaws or vulnerability in desert areas of operation, or due to enemy fire?
I was just watching a show yesterday on the Cobra upgrade and they were saying it was the last one due to the Osprey and UAV's.
I wonder if this guy was really SF.
His claim could lead you to belieeve he was with MACVSOG, and worked out of all thee CC's
I wonder if this guy was really SF.
His claim could lead you to belieeve he was with MACVSOG, and worked out of all thee CC's

I missed that when I skimmed the article but you're right. Who is this dude and is he legit?
Already played this out across the street, found it through a google search; he's the real deal. Don't want to post the link but if you want to go search it out, the threads called "Need bonafidis confirmation".
It's good for role specific missions. But I would say that it would not be good to replace either a standard fixed wing or rotary aircraft. It's just another tool in the toolbox.
I wouldn't want to fly on one. I've hopped aboard helicopters knowing that, even in the hands of a professional, they still have very little margin for error. Still, I've never blanched on getting on board. Sikorsky proved the concept, and I grew up watching them come and go on a daily basis from 12th group HQ for decades. Never saw one go down.

I don't think I'd be able to say the same about the Osprey. That aircraft has been finicky since day one, and its design principals don't just go back 25 years, it's been more like 50 years since Hiller and Rotodyne first tried to bring these types of aircraft into the mainstream. And they still have problems with the basic design. This program should have been scrapped (it was, by Cheney), and should have stayed scrapped.
Anyone spoken to any Osprey pilots who fly the thing about what they think of it? I've heard rumours some of them love it and I've also heard rumours some SF units are interested in it for infil and exfil. Could be wrong, as it's all rumours I'm hearing.
Road on one about a week ago in country. Fast ride. Bigger than I thought as well.

Here they are landing at the base.



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Marines put Bell Helicopter's Osprey to test in Iraq

[SIZE=+2]Marines put Bell Helicopter's Osprey to test in Iraq
[/SIZE][SIZE=+1]Marines put criticized aircraft to test in Iraq; Fort Worth maker could gain
[/SIZE] [SIZE=-1]11:54 PM CST on Wednesday, January 2, 2008

[/SIZE][SIZE=-1]By RICHARD WHITTLE / Special Correspondent[/SIZE] ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – On a clear, cool December morning, two odd-looking military aircraft zip along 8,000 feet above the empty desert of western Iraq, preparing to perform a feat worthy of science fiction.
Video: V-22 Osprey takes flight

As the V-22 Ospreys approach their dusty destination, a lonely Marine Corps outpost near the Syrian border, each craft's huge wingtip rotors, now serving as propellers, will steadily tilt upward – and in effect turn the two airplanes into helicopters to land.
Over the past three months, the Osprey's trick of transforming itself has become an everyday sight over Anbar province, where 10 of the Texas-built tiltrotor transports have been flying in a combat zone for the first time in the V-22's tumultuous 24-year history.
So far, the Osprey has defied the dire predictions of its most severe critics. Citing the V-22's record of four crashes and 30 deaths in test flights prior to 2001, some foes of the tiltrotor forecast more crashes and deaths in Iraq.
As of Dec. 28, three months through a scheduled seven-month deployment, the 23 pilots of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, known as VMM-263, had logged 1,639 hours of flight time in Iraq, carried 6,826 passengers and delivered 631,837 pounds of cargo without a mishap or even a close call.
That's good news not only for the Marines but also for Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. of Fort Worth and Boeing Co.'s helicopter division, near Philadelphia, which make the Osprey in a 50-50 partnership. About 2,500 Bell employees work on the Osprey in Fort Worth and Amarillo, where V-22s are assembled.
The Marines plan to buy 360 Ospreys in all. The Air Force is set to purchase 50 and may buy more, for special operations. The companies hope to sell dozens more to the Navy and potential foreign customers as well. An unsuccessful first V-22 deployment could torpedo those sales.
Headquartered at Asad, an isolated air base in the desert about 110 miles west of Baghdad, VMM-263's Ospreys spent their first two months in Iraq largely flying "general support" missions – hauling troops and supplies to and from forward operating bases.
"As long as they keep using it like a truck, I think they'll probably be OK," said Philip Coyle, a former Pentagon weapons testing director and a longtime Osprey critic.
In December, VMM-263 began to take on riskier tasks.
On Dec. 6, two of the Ospreys carried 24 combat-loaded Marines and 24 Iraqi troops on a raid near Lake Tharthar, 150 miles north of Baghdad, to look for suspected insurgents.
"It turned out to be a dry hole, there was nothing there," said Capt. Drew Norris, 30, of Dallas, a graduate of Jesuit College Preparatory School and Texas A&M University who was one of the pilots on the raid. As for the flight, he said, "It went off without a hitch."
Two days later, two Ospreys were included for the first time in a well-established mission called "aeroscout," a sort of roving raid in which troops aboard helicopters search for insurgents by air. The ground troops commander scrubbed the mission when one Osprey needed to turn back to base because one of its four generators failed.
The generator failure is symptomatic of one big question hanging over the Osprey in Iraq: Is the $70 million aircraft reliable enough, or does it break too often?
One of the squadron's 10 Ospreys had to land in Jordan on the way into Iraq in October and spend a couple of days there being fixed after a wiring problem led the pilots to make a precautionary landing. Others have been grounded for days at a time for similar problems in Iraq.
"That's the kind of thing that has plagued the Osprey, reliability failures of one kind or another," Mr. Coyle said.
VMM-263 brought 14 contractor technicians with them to help deal with such problems, and the Marine Corps and contractors have taken pains to make sure the squadron gets all the parts it needs.
The squadron's readiness rate in Iraq – how many aircraft are ready to fly – has varied from as low as 50 percent to 100 percent on a given day, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Carlos Rios, maintenance material control chief. But the key question is whether enough aircraft are available for the missions that the squadron is assigned, he said.
Lt. Col. Paul Rock, commander of VMM-263, said his squadron had been forced to turn down taskings for lack of aircraft only "one or two days" during its first two months in Iraq.
In addition to flying troops and supplies, meanwhile, the Ospreys have become a favorite way to fly for VIPs, such as generals who need a fast way to get to the Marines' forward operating bases, which have no runways. Anbar is roughly the size of South Carolina.
The Osprey can take off and land like a helicopter but tilts its rotors all the way forward to fly like an airplane. That lets it fly more than twice as fast and far as the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters that the Marines are looking to replace. It cruises thousands of feet higher than helicopters.
The debate over the V-22 is far from over, though, in part because while the Osprey is flying in a combat zone, there isn't much actual combat in that zone these days.
When the Marines decided to send the Osprey to Iraq, Anbar was the hotbed of the Sunni Muslim insurgency that racked Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003. By the time the squadron arrived in October, Sunni rebels had turned against the jihadists affiliated with al-Qaeda and have been helping rather than attacking U.S. forces.
Through mid-December, none of VMM-263's pilots had reported any evidence of being shot at, though some had seen tracer rounds well below them while flying at night.
Under the circumstances, some critics might say that the Osprey isn't really being tested, but "people are too impatient," said V-22 advocate Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, a Washington think tank with close ties to the defense industry.
"The kind of harrowing operations that people anticipated haven't occurred so far, but what we're learning about the V-22 in Iraq is that it can operate every day, it can perform a wide range of missions, and – at least so far – it does not have deficient reliability," he said. "However, there's a long way to go before we grasp the potential of this aircraft. This is just the beginning."
Richard Whittle is a freelance journalist based in Chevy Chase, Md., who covers military affairs for The Dallas Morning News. He is writing a book about the V-22 Osprey for Simon & Schuster.

I must have missed this thread...

I first flew on one in 99, as part of the OT&E test team. VERY hot in the back, environmental issues.

I've flown on them several times since they've been here and they're a pretty sweet ride. I'll fly on them anytime...