Ready for Primetime? Part Three


Categorie: Air |

After more than 20 years of development – and seven years after two fatal crashes nearly killed the program entirely – the Boeing/Bell V-22 Osprey is finally prepping to actually do its job. This fall Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 based at New River Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina will deploy to Al Asad in western Iraq for seven months with around a dozen Ospreys, replacing 1960s-era Boeing H-46 Sea Knights for ferrying and re-supplying Marines fighting in that huge, desolate province.

Despite the Corps’ apparent confidence in their new bird, skeptics in the media and at think-tanks continue to predict disaster – foremost among them, Lee Gaillard from the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C., who last week weighed in with an email distributed to the media: “With lives at stake, the question bears repeating: how combat-ready and maintainable is the MV-22B Osprey?”

The heart of Gaillard’s criticism is, of course, that the V-22 is a fundamentally flawed design and will crash at a high rate due to the “vortex ring state” phenomenon that was a factor in the crashes during testing. VRS is, essentially, a chopper’s tendency to stall during certain descent profiles. But the Marines have proved in thousands of flight hours since 2000 that VRS can be avoided with proper training and tactics, as we reported at Ares in January.

But Gaillard has backup criticisms:

MV-22Bs are restricted from taking radical evasive maneuvers. Planned three-barrel nose turrets for clearing hostile landing zones have been replaced by ramp-mounted guns that fire to the rear and impede troop egress. Despite the technical review warning of component and flight control computer obsolescence issues conducted by US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in 2003, all V-22s were grounded last month because of faulty Texas Instruments chips in their computerized flight control systems.

A couple months back, following one of his anti-Osprey presentations, I asked Gaillard, these criticisms aside, if he wasn’t undervaluing the Osprey’s apparent strengths, including its high speed. He said that no speed advantage conferred by a tilt-rotor design was worth the cost and (he claims) crash risk.

Colonel Glenn Walters, one of the Marines’ most experienced Osprey pilots, begs to differ. He says that the V-22’s high speed — up to 300 miles per hour versus around 100 miles per hour for the H-46 – makes it perfect for “distributed operations,” the Marine Corps’ emerging “network-centric” concept for covering more ground with fewer troops.

“Aviation is the key enabler for distributed operations,” Walter says. He asks us to imagine ground ops at a distance of around 150 miles from their supply base. The Osprey can make multiple runs between the troops and their base on a single load of fuel at around 20 minutes per leg. An H-46 would require more than an hour. “Is that valuable?” he asks about the V-22’s superior speed. “Yes.”

I agree with Walters – and for good reason. In Maysan province in southern Iraq right now, the British are exploring their own version of distributed ops that has a small, light battlegroup roaming the desert with minimal logistics support. The battlegroup absolutely relies on daily resupply flights and short-notice medical evacuation flights by Merlin helicopters based 100 miles away at Basra Air Station. The speedy Merlins (around 200 miles per hour) can get to the battlegroup in just 30 minutes – and never miss a rendezvous owing to their high reliability and superior navigation and communications systems. I should know: I too relied on the Merlins when I visited the Maysan battlegroup in October.

The Osprey will do everything the Merlin does, but even better, for it is faster and – on account of its composite structure and digital troubleshooting systems – potentially more reliable. With fast, responsive Ospreys as their lifelines, widely dispersed Marine units will be even more mobile than the impressive British battlegroup. Distributed ops are the key to the Marine Corps’ vision of the future – and the V-22 Osprey is the key to distributed ops.


9 Responses to “Ready for Primetime? Part Three”

  1. Grandjester says:

    ” replacing 1960s-era Boeing H-46 Sea Knights for ferrying and re-supplying Marines ”

    Billions of bucks and it’s just a fucking truck?

    Complete bullshit, drop this turd already.

  2. Haninah says:

    “The V-22’s high speed — up to 300 miles per hour” & “Imagine ground ops at a distance of around 150 miles from their supply base. The Osprey can make multiple runs … at around 20 minutes per leg.”

    Those numbers don’t add up.

    I know that such off-the-cuff numbers shouldn’t be taken too literally, but it is the insistence of PA officers and similar types that they can spout facts and figures that are patently implausible that leads well-intentioned journalists to question the trustworthiness and reliability of government sources.

  3. David Axe says:


    The Osprey is actually theoretically capable of speeds in excess of 350 mph. I rounded way down to avoid sounding too enthusiastic. Walters is assuming a higher speed than I am.

  4. Osprey to deploy…

    The think-tank critics and the MSM hate it. The Marines love it. And it will finally go to war, assuming the Dems haven’t figured a way to force a withdrawal by then:"This fall Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 based at……

  5. Sean says:

    Just thought I’d drop by this thread to point out my comments on the 4/30/07 post Warthogs’ Secret Haunt about seeing V-22′s in Florida, likely doing deployment training.

    I can’t wait – the V-22′s are the most innovative aircraft built in the last 20 years, and I think they will revolutionize close air support and resupply, as you said David.

  6. OspreyTweek says:

    Obviously Grandjester is not a Marine and the closest he’s ever been to combat is playing Halo on the Little Girl setting. I am an avionics maintainer on the Osprey and I am very excited about the deployment of the aircraft. I think the aircraft will prove to be a wonderful asset for the Corps and if I were an infantry grunt on the ground, I would feel much better knowing that I was being supported by the Osprey.

    Having small pieces of lead flying at your head will help you to appreciate the fact that you have “just a f****** truck” there to pick you up and get you to the hospital for major life-saving surgery in a matter of minutes rather than the several hours that ground transportation would take. And at the same time that they’re taking your buddy to the hospital, they’re also dropping off more rounds so that you can take care of the enemy that just sent your buddy away.

    This is a wonderful aircraft with supperior capabilities that will revolutionize the way Marines are able to conduct combat operations. And the avionics package is so redundant that it will be quite difficult to get it out of the sky. I am anxious to hear the good reports from Iraq this winter. My thoughts and prayers are with my friends that are deploying. Semper Fi!

  7. devildog says:

    if you would like to know any thing on the osprey then you need to speak to one of few, proud maintainers of this awesome bird. all this info being passed around the internet is a violation of operational security (op sec) anyone can get this information!! the media reports neagative statements to get an audience. what do you think our enemys will think if they heard these articles bashing on there on troops???!!! really what needs to happen is for the media to give all their support to all services me and woman and trust them to take care of thier own while thier out there defending those in need. oorah!!?

  8. [...] Der V-22 Ospray kann um die 10′000 kg transportieren und liegt somit im Bereich des CH-46E „Sea Knight“ und ist doppelt so leistungsfähig wie die CH-53 „Sea Stallion“. Der grösste Vorteil liegt jedoch in der hohen Reisegeschwindigkeit (396 km/h) und damit auch in der Reichweite (4′293 km bei der Überführung, operativ ca. 1′182 km). Zum Vergleich erreicht die CH-46E ca. 248 km/h, die Reichweite für die Überführung beträgt nur 676km, operativ gar nur 296 km. Die CH-53 ist ungefähr gleich schnell wie die CH-46E schnell und kann für die Überführung ca. 1000 km zurücklegen. Der V-22 kann so zusammengefaltet werden, dass es beispielsweise auf einem Flugzeugträger ein Minimum an Platz benötigt (siehe Bild oben links). Als Nachteil sprechen das hohe Leergewicht (15′032 kg), der hohe Preis (ca. 5 Mal so teuer wie der CH-46E) und die komplexe Technologie. Es scheint auch, dass der V-22 nicht ganz einfach zu fliegen ist, denn in seiner Erprobungsphase gab es einige Unfälle zu verzeichnen. [...]

  9. [...] Related: Time vs. Osprey Ready for Primetime? Part Four Ready for Primetime? Part Three Ready for Primetime? Part Two Ready for Primetime? Part One No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

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