V-22 Osprey: A Flying Shame?

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MV-22 Osprey(click to view full) 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 […]
MV-22 Osprey Tilting Rotor

MV-22 Osprey
(click to view full)

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

V-22 ramp gunner

MV-22 ramp gunner
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As of March 2008, MV-22 Ospreys are headed to Iraq for deployment, albeit with significant limitations on their use, in order to avoid a catastrophe for the program. The Osprey’s $100+ million price tag, and clouded program history, do raise the stakes on combat losses, and the long term worry is that recapitalization costs end up leaking into tactical decisions at a number of levels, at the expense of troops on the ground. Time will tell if that proves to be the case.

If the worst happens, however, many will ask if key warnings went unheeded. Lee Gaillard is a former Marine reservist and a widely published defense and aerospace writer, issued a 2006 indictment of the program, backed by the left-leaning World Security Institute’s Center for Defense Information. This report examines allegation from “V-22: Wonder Weapon or Widow Maker?” [PDF] in more detail, and DID’s typical “Additional Readings & sources” section at the end of this article adds other sources, including Congressional Research Service reports, the full Pentagon’s OT-IIG testing report that certified the V-22, BAE’s proposal for a V-22 turret, and a response from the US Marines.

With respect to other elements of the CDI report and/or TIME article, DID would note that official responses referred to inaccuracies in Gaillard’s work, but did not directly address many of the serious claims that he made. DID has reproduced key quotes from the CDI report that contain the most serious allegations. It is our hope that this will stimulate a direct response that will address their individual factual basis, and/or list remedial actions already undertaken.

[N.B. Despite making a direct appeal to NAVAIR, it would seem that NAVAIR does not wish to discuss these allegations beyond its releases.]

Key Allegations & Excerpts

RWS RGS on MV-22 Slide

RGS for MV-22
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Before our savvy readers examine the CDI document and email us, DID is aware that the CH-47 Chinook, cited as an alternative platform in Gaillard’s document, is not compatible with the internal dimensions of amphibious assault ships (though the listed EH101 and H-92 alternatives are). We’re also aware that a solution may be imminent to a key deficiency cited by TIME magazine and by Gaillard – the V-22’s inability to provide suppressive fire for its landing zones, because its only armament points backward from an open rear ramp.

The allegations tend to fall into several distinct categories, and so DID has grouped them for convenience. Note that the OT-IIG report referenced in Gaillard’s document is the 2005 Pentagon report that declared the V-22 “suitable and effective.” That is a formal designation, allowing a weapons system to move into production.


With respect to that gunnery issue, a subsequent US Navy NAVAIR release replied to TIME’s allegations by saying that:

“Over the past five years, side gunners firing from CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan “found that most of the threat was on the ramp…”

It would be helpful to know more about practiced escort doctrines for these helicopters, in order to fully evaluate this statement. If AH-1 Cobras or AH-64 Apache attack helicopters are performing the landing zone clearance role with forward firing weaponry, a gap may still exist for the MV-22, because attack helicopters find it hard to keep up. This creates a choice between reducing the MV-22’s speed to match its escorts and sacrificing a key advantage, using fixed-wing aircraft as escorts and accepting their different attack strengths, attempting convergence of separate V-22 & helicopter flights at or near the Landing Zone, or employing the V-22s without helicopter gunship escorts.

Meanwhile, BAE has been working on a solution. At AUSA 2007 in October, BAE announced that it has tested the RGS turret solution for the V-22, which would provide 360 degree coverage using a 3-barrel 7.62mm GAU-17 minigun. Deployment is now expected to begin in late 2009. See “BAE’s Turret to Deploy in CV-22s, MV-22s” for further details and updates.

Flight Control

V-22 Cutaway

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The most heavily publicized issue with the Osprey is Vortex Ring State, a situation that can occur with any rotorcraft and cause it to lose lift. Most helicopters will just autorotate and either recover or autorotate to the ground. The Osprey’s big problem is that it risks losing lift in just one of its two engines, in which case it will flip over and begin to fall upside down. This has led to previous test flight crashes which were fatal to all concerned. As the OT-IIG report states, “When descending at a high rate with low forward speed, the rotor can become enveloped in its own downwash, which can result in a substantial loss of lift. Should one rotor enter VRS and lose more lift than the other rotor, a sudden roll can result, which quickly couples into a[n inverted] nose-down pitch.”

Gaillard alleges that recovery from the Vortex Ring Styate (VRS) that has caused past fatal crashes may not be possible if the pilot is flying at low altitude:

“The Pentagon’s report tells us that OT-IIG ran flight tests to address the problem, that “rapid recovery has been demonstrated by rotating the nacelles forward at the first sign of VRS,”20 that aircrews were able to accomplish their missions… nacelle would be able to tilt forward 16 degrees over a 2-second period, resulting in probable abort of any descent profile in progress. The altitude, however, is discernible in context: they were at thousands of feet. Such altitude and time are unavailable luxuries during rapid troop insertion under fire passing through low altitude.”

V-22 crew chief Staff Sgt. Brian Freeman’s letter to Gannett’s Marine Corps Times, however, says that:

“Gaillard said the aircraft was limited to 800 feet per minute vertical rate of descent because of vortex ring state, but what he fails to say or does not know is that most descents are performed from 200 feet and below in airplane mode. The total time from airplane mode at 200 feet to wheels on deck is two minutes, give or take a few seconds. That is based on four years of flying on the aircraft and performing more than 300 hours of confined area landings” [i.e. actual descent is about 1,000 feet/minute].

The Osprey’s ability to operate at night was not tested properly, and indicates maintenance issues:

“Although the test plan included 29 mission profiles at night, they only accomplished 12.”54 That’s only 41 percent of their objectives. The report provided no explanation of what would seem to be a significant testing inadequacy. Not only that, but just before the operational evaluation, “proprotor gearbox problems significantly curtailed flight operations. As a result, VMX-22 could not completely qualify the expected number of aircrew to conduct night operation aboard the ship.”

Inadequate shipboard testing for landing under realistic conditions:

“At night or by day, in flight or on deck, the V-22 is dangerously susceptible to sudden aerodynamic instabilities resulting from wakes of other aircraft during formation flight, disturbed flow fields downwind of the ship’s superstructure, or turbulence generated by idling props of other aircraft preparing for takeoff. Testing under just such conditions is, therefore, crucial. But night shipboard testing is revealed to have been less than realistic: only slightly more than half the rotorcraft that would normally operate off the deck of the USS Bataan were present during the testing, and “with more aircraft expected on board, there will be an adverse effect upon flight deck operations.”62 As indicated, serious and potentially dangerous aerodynamic issues come into play here, given prop wash from multiple MV-22s operating in close conditions on a dark and crowded flight deck, yet V-22 production was approved before testing under such conditions had even been attempted. This outcome is particularly disturbing coming four years after the GAO had soundly criticized NAVAIR’s previous round of V-22 tests for lack of operational realism inherent in its “formation flight limitations – wingman shall avoid and not cross lead aircraft wake during formation flights, 250 ft. lateral and 50 ft. step-up separation shall be maintained.”


MV-22, landing
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Despite its status as an aircraft with exceptionally heavy downwash, operations in brownout conditions that have caused the loss of many rotary craft over the years were not properly tested in the OT-IIG:

“VMX- 22 did not encounter landings under conditions with severe visibility degradation during OT-IIG … [because] an unusually wet spring resulted in a large amount of vegetation that prevented severe brownouts during landing attempts.”52 Why no re-testing at a later date in an appropriate locale? So much for critical testing that would have provided valuable insights into operation under conditions prevailing in Iraq, Afghanistan, or other desert-type locations where the Osprey may well see combat in 2007…

The OT-IIG report itself states that “in more severely degraded environments, such as in brownout conditions, the immediate area affected by downwash is large,” and “approximately 25 percent of the landings in severe brownout conditions resulted in unintended wave-offs.”

A Nov 19/07 US Navy NAVAIR release by Col. Glenn Walters responds that:

“My squadron flew in desert environments on multiple occasions totaling months of tests. The squadron now in Iraq completed several desert training periods prior to deploying. In fact, we just had another squadron of MV-22s in California and Arizona doing more of the same. Not only can the Ospreys fly in the desert, the aircraft’s advanced technology makes it easier than in any other rotorcraft to land in brownout conditions.”

In February 2009, however, reports surfaced that V-22 downwash was so heavy, that it could blow other helicopters off of the amphibious assault ships’ flight decks. Gannet’s Marine Corps Times:

“For example, Kouskouris said flight deck operators [on the USS Bataan] are reluctant to land an Osprey next to smaller helicopters such as the AH-1 Super Cobra or the UH-1 Huey because the tilt rotors’ massive downdraft could blow the smaller aircraft off a deck spot. He has formally asked for this restriction to be included in the Osprey’s future training programs.”

CDI’s final allegation involves flawed flight control software that had contributed to fatal V-22 crashes and been a source of problems for the program. According to their report, the OT-IIG tests didn’t use actual aircraft:

“To evaluate flight control system (FCS) software and hardware, the OT-IIG report tells us that the “manufacturer integrated three simulation

laboratories. This triple tie-in lab allowed a pilot in a realistic cockpit simulator to fly mission profiles and perform emergency procedures using actual flight control system hardware and software.”


V-22 underslung M777

V-22 With M777
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Tests purporting to show the MV-22’s ability to carry 24 Marines were not honestly conducted, and unsuccessful:

“Other test exercises used “a ballast weight of 4,760 pounds in lieu of 24 combat equipped Marines,”57 which translates to an underweight and highly unlikely estimate of 198 pounds per body armor-equipped Marine carrying rifle, ammo, and full combat pack: allowing a modest 60 pounds for all that gear puts each hefty Marine at roughly 138 pounds. That’s not a realistic test. With five aircraft assigned to each mission, the outcome was that “two aircraft aborted the day mission because of mechanical failures,”58 and “the test team had previously scaled back the night mission to three aircraft, of which one aborted”59 – a 50 percent aircraft abort/ cancellation rate with no live troops carried. The official summary of this operation borders on the inexplicable: “VMX-22 successfully executed the TRAP missions within the scope of aircraft and environments available for each mission”


Osprey cannot carry up-armored Humvees:

“…since the V-22 is unable to carry an up-armored Humvee on a single cargo hook, the OT-IIG external lift profile cited transport of a 6,250-pound water trailer and a 7,200-pound “operational combat vehicle”67 later identified by the V-22 program’s PAO as a standard – unarmored – Humvee. When standard Humvees proved extremely vulnerable in combat in Iraq, the acute need for up-armored versions quickly became apparent. Now, more than three years later, certification of the V-22 to carry up-armored Humvees on two hooks has not yet occurred and has not even been “identified as a requirement by the Marine Corps or prioritized in their funding of flight tests.”

Osprey not tested for load carriage paramaters, which may be untrue:

“Even compartments in Table III-1 on page 15 of the OT-IIG report, “MV-22 Block A Performance Results,” are filled with fudge: for Amphibious External Lift with a required 10,000-pound vehicle, a 6,900-pound vehicle is substituted, but the Block A Projection

suggests that a 10,000-pound vehicle therefore ought to be able to be carried 115 nautical miles (nm), even while another box admits that the improved Block B V-22 can be projected to carry said weight only 40 nm instead of the required 50 nm.”

Deployability hampered by lack of ICAO qualifications:

“Despite the Osprey’s ostensible transoceanic self-deployment capability with air-to-air refueling, the Marine Corps’ V-22 leadership failed to account for the need to meet International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements specifically for highfrequency (HF) radio installation for beyond line-of-sight communication. NAVAIR’s March 27, 2003, Tech Review states: “Current UHF/VHF and SATCOM capability cannot fulfill this function,”98 and urges that they “convince HQMC to establish requirement.”99 Given the ICAO’s well-known and long-standing requirement, this V-22 omission represents a significant oversight. Three years later, it remains uncorrected.”

Inability to communicate when in anti-jam mode:

“Furthermore, the OT-IIG report tells us that critical Osprey voice information exchange requirements (IERs) cannot be met when its radio system is operating in the anti-jam mode – a key expectation in combat, one would assume. Moreover, “user ID numbers greater than 399 causes the mission computer to cycle continuously, blanking out flight displays,”…It would therefore seem that the MV-22’s Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) is essentially useless.”

Heating and cooling are inadequate for most anticipated combat zones, which feature climate extremes:

“…inadequate cooling and heating systems that cannot anticipate both hot climates, with a need to keep cargo and troops in heavy combat gear cool, and cold climates, when long flights might necessitate extra heating. Troops arrive dehydrated and enervated by the heat, or chilled and stiff from the cold. This concern was raised four years earlier in the previously cited GAO report: “Cabin environment cannot be adequately controlled to prevent extreme temperature conditions.”118 Troops have also voiced complaints about the cabin temperatures. “I have a big concern about the temperature of the inside of the aircraft. You could have heat casualties before they even get on the ground,” reported one Marine.119 Another declared: “ECS is designed to keep the cabin [plus] 10 degree ambient. On cold days with sub-zero wind-chill and temperature crewmembers are literally freezing. Hot days are the opposite extreme.” 120″

Troop accommodations slow exit, and create risks to soldiers:

“…poorly designed seat belts with hard-to-manipulate latches that entangle easily. Unfortunately, this “may [read will] increase the time for embarkation and debarkation, posing a safety risk during combat or emergency evacuations.”121 The short seat pans cut circulation and “caused [troops’] legs to fall asleep during flight”122 (not to mention the possible onset of potentially fatal deep vein thrombosis), because shock-attenuating pistons under the seats force troops to stow their combat packs on their laps (aggravating leg circulation problems) or in the aisle, causing congestion that “may [read will] impede an emergency or combat egress.”

Reliability & Maintainability

AIR V-22 Osprey Stowed Position

MV-22, stowed
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Poor reliability has been cited cited in official reports, and in several release put out by the services themselves. From CDI:

“According to the table on page 26, V-22 mission commanders should be prepared for false alarms after every 1.6 hours of flight, for an aircraft mission abort after the equivalent of eight three-hour flights, or a parts failure any time an aircraft has flown more than 90 minutes.

Mission planners are to be prepared for… post-abort mean repair time of nine hours before the rotorcraft will be ready for resumption of the mission – when “the MRTA threshold requirement for the Block A aircraft is 4.8 hours or less… the individual component repair list classifies over 500 of more than 590 items as ‘Repair Not Authorized at the I-Level.’ Those items have to be returned to depot-level repair facilities when they fail.”

While a Jan 23/08 release from the USMC stressed the V-22’s 68.1% reliability rate, it also suggested that spares were being used up at a rapid clip. In March 2008, Aviation Week quoted Marine Corps V-22 program manager Col. Matt Mulhern conceding that V-22 engine maintenance issues in Iraq may drive the U.S. Marine Corps to look for entirely new engines. Despite a recent redesign to improve dust handling, Mulhern is quoted as saying that:

“…as we actually operate the aircraft, the engines aren’t lasting as long as we [or the government] would like.”

This is reportedly forcing a move from the current “Power By the Hour” framework of payment per flight-hour, which Rolls Royce can no longer support. Key problems include erosion in the compressor blades, and lack of power margin to handle expected weight growth. Mulhern reportedly said that “We need to move on, with or without Rolls-Royce.” The Marines’ forthcoming CH-53K heavy lift helicopter is slated to use General Electric’s GE38-1B, the only turboshaft engine in the same power class.

In May 2009, the Military.com report “Osprey to Deploy With New Firepower” confirmed the V-22’s spares problem, quoting and confirming that the approach was to provide more spares and inventory:

“[USMC Lt. Gen. George J.] Trautman acknowledged that readiness issues brought on by environmental factors – fine Iraqi dust – hampered the Osprey’s three combat tours in Iraq, but he said a refined system should help ensure replacements are in place downrange when critical components fail.”

Subsequent comments in Aviation Week quoted Trautman to give a 62% mission capable rate in Iraq, though he also cited that fact that nearly 1/3 of the fleet were still MV-22As, which lack some of the reliability qualities designed into the MV-22Bs. It remains to be seen whether increased use of MV-22Bs has much effect.

Another potential issue for fleet mission-capable rates is that cabin damage (such as bullet holes) affect the V-22’s load-bearing integrity – and can’t be fixed in the field:

“Damage to [the cabin wall] can make the aircraft unavailable for an extensive period”90 because it cannot be repaired in the field. NAVAIR knew two years earlier that since “the cabin wall is load-bearing [it] may not be repaired without first performing an engineering assessment not available at the combat unit level.”91 The key recommendation in the report, “re-design of cabin wall,”92 was not done. “Unfunded,”93 the report noted.”

If maintenance requires unfolding the wings, difficulties arise at sea:

“…heat from the V-22’s rotor/prop turbine exhaust caused the USS Bataan’s flight deck to buckle under the right engine following more than 20 minutes of idle; the same problem had occurred on both the USS Wasp and USS Iwo Jima during the previous round of testing. Since space limitations mandate that “any maintenance actions requiring the proprotors to be spread [out of their folded mode] must be conducted on the flight deck,”101 both bad weather and flight operations would still delay such repairs. Furthermore, incompatibility of ship and aircraft power sources unnecessarily complicates logistical support: 118 volts on the USS Bataan vs. an MV-22 requirement (for its sensitive avionics system) of 115 [plus or minus 2] volts.”

In June 2009, these concerns got a more official airing, via the congressional GAO’s report #GAO-09-692T. “V-22 OSPREY AIRCRAFT: Assessments Needed to Address Operational and Cost Concerns to Define Future Investments” was extremely critical of the program’s long-term affordability. Among other things, the report questions the fleet’s effectiveness in high-threat combat zones, estimates potential operations and support costs of $75 billion over the fleet’s 30-year lifetime, and states that the fleet needs so many spares that there may not be enough room for them all aboard the ships expected to carry them. The GAO goes so far as to recommend a formal exploration of alternatives to the USMC’s MV-22.



MV-22, ropedown
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Lack of visibility inside the Osprey creates poor awareness of outside threats:

“Windows are small and so poorly placed that “crew chiefs still

criticize the poor outside field of view,”109 rendering them unable “to scan for traffic and airborne or ground threats.”110 Previous testing had revealed this critical deficiency years earlier, yet no design changes were implemented. “Crew chief/observer will not be able to get visual on Bandits or SAMs due to poor porthole size,”111 said one participant. E “This was a very frustrating flight because of the crew chief ‘s inability to provide the pilots with vital information regarding the aggressors’ location,”112 according to another.”

And the threat displays & aids aren’t much help:

“…a separate threat display makes it difficult to correlate displayed threat information with aircraft position presented on the cockpit map display. Furthermore, “the synthetic warning voice provided by the APR-39 is unintelligible to all crew members. In brief, confusion may reign in the cockpit as the aircraft approaches a hot landing zone and the pilot has to look back and forth between different screens to locate the threats, even as the recorded voice warning about those threats is providing meaningless and distracting information, and while main cabin windows’ limited visibility prevents the crew chief from providing effective lookout against surface and airborne threats.”

The V-22’s hydraulic lines are redundant, but can be disabled all at once in several places:

“But ‘operation’ is not combat. In many areas of the wings and nacelles, the three brittle titanium 5,000 psi hydraulic lines often run parallel routes in very close proximity to each other. What happens when an RPG or 30 mm AA round explodes in the midst of such a nexus? Most likely, a rapid and complete loss of hydraulic pressure, followed by loss of aircraft control.51 True triple redundancy would involve a totally different configuration of widely separated hydraulic lines in the V-22.”

No autorotation means any crash is likely to kill everyone on board. This issue was also given a fair bit of space in the TIME magazine report:

“[The OT-IIG] report’s own executive summary states: “Emergency landing after the sudden failure of both engines in the Conversion/Vertical Take-Off and Landing modes below 1,600 feet altitude are not likely to be survivable. The V-22 cannot

autorotate to a safe landing.”168 A subsequent comment in the summary states: “Additional flight tests should be conducted to provide validated procedures for dual-engine failure [and none have been conducted].”

In their Oct 15/07 response to the TIME Magazine article, US Navy NAVAIR states that:

“The Osprey has unusually thick wings, which give the aircraft lift at very low air speeds and allow it to glide at speeds as low as 40 knots. A hovering Osprey doesn’t need to fully convert to airplane mode to leverage this advantage. A small tilt on the nacelles does the trick, allowing the bird to glide to the ground as well as, if not better than, other fixed-wing aircraft… The autorotation wording was dropped from the requirement in 2004 when Corps officials changed it to say only that the Osprey must perform a survivable emergency landing in the event both engines are lost.”

This is helpful, but details regarding the real-world survivability testing for this proposition would have been more helpful. There’s also the issue of confined space. While an autorotation is a very vertical affair, a glide requires horizontal space that may not necessarily be available, or may include obstacles that reduce crash survivability. If the V-22 will not be used in the same way as a fixed-wing aircraft, the criteria must take its employment into account when designing the tests.

The CDI report also alleges no real tests for single-engine shutdown:

“Although a V-22 program spokesperson told me that its testing regimen has included a number of one engine inoperative (OEI) transitions in level flight and in steeply angled descents to roll-on landings (and equivalent rolling short takeoffs),16144 it is disturbing to note that during its 17 years of evaluation, the V-22 has never been tested in this purely vertical OEI landing or takeoff mode with one engine completely shut down, exactly the kind of landing or takeoff necessary from a small clearing in a jungle or on a mountainside. Since this key test was omitted, the report’s claim cannot be considered seriously. Furthermore, because any OEI situation will immediately deprive the aircraft of 50 percent of its previous max power capability, and given that the V-22’s prop design does not permit a helicopter-type pre-landing flare, vertical landing of a loaded OEI Osprey would result in substantial landing impact with probable damage to the aircraft.”

V-22 crew chief Staff Sgt. Brian Freeman’s letter to Gannett’s Marine Corps Times, however, says that:

“…during the last four years flying on the MV-22, I have been single-engine two times; on both occasions, the aircraft responded as if nothing had happened. The aircraft’s ability to provide lift comes from its torque available vs. torque required – simply put, if you limit the amount of torque that a student pilot can use during takeoff or landing training events, which we do, you in turn simulate a single-engine profile. I can tell you that there is no difference between actual and simulated single-engine performance.”

Very large radar reflection:

“Nevertheless, the countermeasures dispensing system was found to have insufficient capacity for longer missions, and radar reflection from the V-22’s total propeller disc area of more than 2,267 square feet rivals that of two Boeing 707s in formation.146 (Given that situation, one can only wonder at the logic behind the development of top-secret “stealth paint” for the fuselage at a cost of $7,500 per gallon; the one aircraft they painted required 10 gallons for a paint job costing $75,000 – but those huge, whirling discs were still there, bouncing back radar signals with gusto.)”

Evasive maneuvers not tested properly:

“Aware of such maneuvering often required in the stress of combat, in late 2002 one military observer specifically recommended adding to V-22 testing three specific evasive maneuvers that included “maximum rate course reversals and landing zone aborts.” This should have been nothing new; as he formally cited, such maneuvers had long been an integral part of accepted and official rotorcraft doctrine – “consistent with the definition of ‘aggressive agility’ as required for utility rotorcraft in ADS-33E, Performance Specification, handling Qualities Requirements for Military Rotorcraft, 21 Mar 2000.”153 NAVAIR agreed that these maneuvers should be tested, but they still had not done so more than a year later “because the V-22 rotor control system repeatedly exceeded rotor disk flapping limits154 while approaching the requested conditions.”155 As V-22 Red-Ribbon Panel Coordinator Col. Harry Dunn explained, “Whereas virtually all helicopter rotors have a limit of 28 to 30 degree blade flapping capability, the V-22 propellers are limited to 10 degrees to avoid damage to the rotor, rotor swash plates, and rotor hubs…[E]xceeding these limits can result in rotor failure or breakage, leading to aircraft control failures.”

Additional Readings

* Center for Defense Information (2006) – V-22: Wonder Weapon or Widow Maker? [PDF format, 396k]. Contains the most detailed and specific set of allegations to date concerning the V-22.

Basic Background

* How Stuff Works – V-22 Osprey

* NAVAIR – V-22 Program Office

* USAF Fact Sheets – SOCOM’s CV-22

* Rolls Royce – AE 1107C-Liberty engine.

Official Reports

* US GAO (March 30/10, #GAO-10-388SP) – Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs. Includes a rundown of the V-22’s ongoing issues, in the V-22 section.

* CSBA Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (June 23/09) – The Future of the MV-22 Osprey [PDF].

* US GAO (June 23/09, #GAO-09-692T) – V-22 OSPREY AIRCRAFT: Assessments Needed to Address Operational and Cost Concerns to Define Future Investments. Among other things, the report questions the fleet’s effectiveness in high-threat combat zones, estimates potential operations and support costs of $75 billion over the fleet’s 30-year lifetime, and states that the fleet needs so many spares that there may not be enough room for them all aboard the ships expected to carry them. The GAO goes so far as to recommend a formal exploration of alternatives to the USMC’s MV-22.

* US GAO (March 30/09, #GAO-09-326SP) – “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs.” Includes data covering V-22 program cost growth, and existing mechanical and program issues.

* Congressional Research Service Report for Congress (updated March 13/07) – V-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor Aircraft [Full http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL31384.pdf]. Very fair. Catalogs all of the program’s travails in detail, and presents the arguments both for and against the V-22 Osprey well.

* The Pentagon, Office of Operational Test and Evaluation, Office of the Director (September 2005) – V-22 Osprey Program: Report on Operational and Live Fire Test and Evaluation (OT-IIG). Referenced in the CDI analysis.

Other Resources

* DID – BAE’s Turret to Deploy in CV-22s, MV-22s. Refers to the MGS.

* Project On Government Oversight Investigations Archive – MV-22 Osprey. See also DID’s “POGO Takes Aim At V-22 Osprey

* G2 – The V-22 Continues to Fail. Former USMC officer Carlton Meyer has been one of the programs biggest critics, and his pages include specific allegations not detailed in the CDI report, or addressed in the OT-IIG evaluation. As such, those allegations are not addressed in this article, either.

* WIRED Danger Room (Oct 13/11) – Osprey Down: Marines Shift Story on Controversial Warplane’s Safety Record. The US Marines made an official response, citing the platform’s publicly-available safety records, and success in Afghanistan. David Axe responds that he still wants answers.

* Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Dec 18/10) – Findings on Osprey crash in Afghanistan overturned. “But the general who led the crash investigation said Thursday that there was strong evidence to indicate that the $87 million-plus aircraft, which has a history of technical problems, experienced engine trouble in the final seconds leading to the crash…”

* Aviation Week, via Military.com (March 18/08) – Marines May Seek New V-22 Engines. As a result of issues that have arisen with V-22 engine maintenance in Iraq. Seems to confirm observations re: the Jan 23/08 USMC article. Despite a recent redesign, Marine Corps V-22 program manager Col. Matt Mulhern is quoted as saying that “…as we actually operate the aircraft, the engines aren’t lasting as long as we [or the government] would like.” This is forcing a move from the proposed “Power By the Hour” framework of payment per flight-hour, which Rolls Royce can no longer support.

* US Marine Corps (Jan 23/08) – MV-22 ‘Osprey’ brings new capabilities to the sandbox. The April 14/07 NY Times reported that the V-22s would be kept out of combat situations. These days, that isn’t very hard to do in Anbar province; they key to evaluating this report is clarifying what the Marines are defining as a “combat sortie.” The sentence at the end of the excerpt also hints that questions re: rates of spare parts use would be informative:

“The squadron has completed more than 2,000 ASRs in the first 3 months of the deployment, keeping approximately 8,000 personnel off dangerous roadways and accruing approximately 2,000 flight hours… VMM-263 has flown 5 Aeroscout missions, 1 raid, more than 1400 combat sorties and maintained an average mission capable readiness rate of 68.1%… The range and depth of aviation supply parts is the latent limitation for high availability rates.”

* US Navy NAVAIR (Oct 15/07) – Defending the Osprey. Answers some of the charges in the TIME Magazine article.

* TIME Magazine special report (Oct 8/07 issue) – V-22 Osprey: A Flying Shame

* CBS Evening News (Oct 4/07) – Troubled Osprey Set To Take Flight In Iraq. Claims that one of the 10 Ospreys deploying to Iraq had to abort the mission due to mechanical issues, and had to return to USS Wasp [LHD 1] for repairs before resuming the flight.

* BAE Systems (Oct 2/07) – RGS V-22 turret briefing from AUSA 2007. Press release: “a” [PDF] | RGS Data Sheet [PDF] | Slides [PDF] | Briefing video [Windows Media] | Live fire testing video [Windows Media WVX]. “BAE Systems, which has been working with the user community to develop and demonstrate this capability since mid-2005, is planning to make the system available for installation beginning in the third quarter of 2008.”

* NAVAIR, V-22 Program Office (Sept 19/07) – 1st squadron of V-22s quietly deployed to Iraq

* NY Times (April 14/07) – Combat, With Limits, Looms for Hybrid Aircraft. “They will plan their missions in Iraq to avoid it getting into areas where there are serious threats,” said Thomas Christie, the Pentagon’s director of operations, test and evaluation from 2001 to 2005, who is now retired.” Also contains testimonials (both good and worrisome) from people who have flown in them.

* DID (March 12/07) – Lots Riding on V-22 Osprey. The USMC is designing several ancillary programs around the MV-22, setting key requirements for vehicles, howitzers, and more based on the Osprey’s dimensions and capabilities. Is this why they’re buying a $120,000 jeep?

* Gannett’s Marine Corps Times (Dec 11/06) – Report blasts Osprey testing, readiness. Discusses the CDI report, and includes some responses from the US Marines. See also the subsequent Marine Corps Times letters section, which includes a response from a V-22 crew chief.

* DID (Nov 1/05) – V-22’s “Cloud Stall” Not a Stall At All

* DID (July 14/05) – Osprey Tilt-Rotor Declared “Suitable and Effective”.

* U.S. Naval Institute (1999) – How Will We Escort the MV-22? (registration required). If attack helicopters aren’t fast enough, and fighter jets are too fast, and Ospreys aren’t really armed…

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