Every once in a while, a defense-related controversy becomes large enough to hit mainstream news outlets. Making the cover of TIME Magazine is often a good sign for world leaders, but it’s almost always a very bad sign for military programs. Especially a program that is just making its combat debut. TIME’s Oct 8/07 cover story “V-22 Osprey: A Flying Shame” pulls few punches:
“The saga of the V-22 – the battles over its future on Capitol Hill, a performance record that is spotty at best, a long, determined quest by the Marines to get what they wanted – demonstrates how Washington works (or, rather, doesn’t). It exposes the compromises that are made when narrow interests collide with common sense. It is a tale that shows how the system fails at its most significant task, by placing in jeopardy those we count on to protect us. For even at a stratospheric price, the V-22 is going into combat shorthanded. As a result of decisions the Marine Corps made over the past decade, the aircraft lacks a heavy-duty, forward-mounted machine gun to lay down suppressing fire against forces that will surely try to shoot it down. And if the plane’s two engines are disabled by enemy fire or mechanical trouble while it’s hovering, the V-22 lacks a helicopter’s ability to coast roughly to the ground – something that often saved lives in Vietnam. In 2002 the Marines abandoned the requirement that the planes be capable of autorotating (as the maneuver is called), with unpowered but spinning helicopter blades slowly letting the aircraft land safely. That decision, a top Pentagon aviation consultant wrote in a confidential 2003 report obtained by TIME, is “unconscionable” for a wartime aircraft. “When everything goes wrong, as it often does in a combat environment,” he said, “autorotation is all a helicopter pilot has to save his and his passengers’ lives.”
Recent developments are about to address one of these concerns, but TIME has hardly been the Osprey’s only critic, or the most thorough. That distinction probably belongs to a report published by the left-wing Center for Defense Information, which makes a number of very specific allegations re: the V-22′s technical and testing failings:
- The V-22: Controversy, Turrets & the CDI Report
- Key Allegations & Excerpts [updated]. Includes sections covering Firepower, Flight control, Performance, Reliability & maintainability, and Survivability.
- Additional Readings