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The V-22 Osprey comes up short in desert testing

The last time we covered tilt-rotor aircraft, Bell Helicopter's TR918 Eagle Eye Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) received its FAA certification. The Eagle Eye weighed in at around one ton and featured a top speed of 250MPH.

Today, a report shows that a much larger scale tilt-rotor vehicle from Bell-Boeing is running into more trouble. The Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey has had a storied past including two prominent crashes during development that have killed a total of 23 Marines. These days, the Osprey is still getting flak for "poor aircraft availability" and "marginal operational availability" during 41 test flights this past summer.

The aircraft was lambasted in a recent annual report put forth by the U.S. Defense Department. "Frequent part and system failures, limited supply support, and high false alarm rates in the built-in diagnostic systems caused frequent flight delays and an excessive maintenance workload," claims the report.

Four Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft were assessed between June 6, 2006 and July, 10 2006 at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM. Many of the problems cited in the report stem from the aircraft's poor performance and serviceability in desert conditions. The Marine Corps version of the Osprey is likely to encounter similar performance and maintenance issues as the aircraft mainly differ in equipment packages offered.

The latest batch of issues is troubling to Philip Coyle, senior advisor for the Center for Defense Information. "This produces a maintenance and support burden that the Marines really can’t afford. All of the reliability problems that they continue to have here in the [United] States -- it’s going to drive them crazy overseas."

The V-22 Osprey has a maximum take-off weight of 47,500 pounds, a cruising speed of 246MPH and a top speed of 316MPH. The Air Force currently has plans to purchase 50 Ospreys while the Marine Corps has plans for 360 aircraft.

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RE: Problems
By dodgybob on 1/22/2007 8:44:38 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps the sidewinder analogy is apt. Wasn't it's performance in the Vietnam war one of the reasons why the US Air Force reintroduced guns on fighter aircraft? Over the decades it's matured into a very effective weapon but one wonders how long it will take for the tilt rotar concept as military transport vehicle to reach the same level of dependability.

RE: Problems
By customcoms on 1/22/2007 8:57:23 PM , Rating: 3
I concur. A tilt rotor is BY FAR THE MOST complex aircraft you can design. It has EVERYTHING a helicopter has and EVERYTHING an airplane has. My dad fixes both and flies jets for a living....vehicles designed to fly are inherently complex and prone to mechanical failure, and need solid maintenance, which is hard to provide in a foreign desert environment.
I agree with the post below recommending black hawks. While they don't exactly have top notch range, they are far more reliable in actual operation and will probably meet the needs of the marines. They've been living without a V-22 for 17 years, I don't think they are going to miss them. That said, I feel at this point the project should be taken to completion, like the sidewinder and tomahawk missiles.

RE: Problems
By Lakku on 1/22/2007 11:55:18 PM , Rating: 2
The AIM-7 sparrow was the bigger problem, with only a 30 to 35% hit rate. Sidewinders had better success. With that said, the F-4 didn't have guns until a gun pod was made for it, but other aircraft had guns on them still, just not the main air superiority fighter.

RE: Problems
By Martin Blank on 1/23/2007 12:09:43 PM , Rating: 2
Guns were added in not because of a problem with the missiles, but because engagement ranges often were much, much closer than expected. The Sidewinder needs room to accelerate and arm the warhead so that it doesn't put the launching aircraft in danger of being hit by fragments from its own weapon. Vietnamese MiGs would close in rapidly, and engagement ranges could be well inside the minimum Sidewinder range. F-4 pilots would have to break away and gain distance to allow room for missile engagement, which left time for the MiG pilot to either maneuver into a kill position or escape, racing for the trees at full speed. This left them out of range of the Sidewinders (though a great IR target), and in a difficult position for the Sparrow because the radar return was cluttered.

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