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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 Grast on 1/23/2007 10:34:24 AM , Rating: 3

I do not agree with your stance. I do not believe the government should help any of the ship builders or any other manufacturing company. If the companies are unable to stay in business, they should be allowed to fail. Once these failing and poorly run companies are gone if a demand exists, a new more hungry and stable company will arize.

I believe that is part of the reason why our defense manufacturing companies are in such poor shape is due to the government bailing them out constantly.

Let the free market determine if a company can survive.


RE: Problems
By stromgald on 1/23/2007 11:52:48 AM , Rating: 3
I think the main concern is the loss of knowledge and experience. That is critical in spooling up and building new military platforms. It's not as simple as slapping a few guns on a ship or aircraft.

If a company like Lockheed goes belly up because they lose two contracts in a row and doesn't receive government help, many of their engineers will get drawn to unrelated work like designing cars. Without these companies which help facilitate knowledge passing from generation to generation, the next generation will lose much of the knowledge learned by previous generations. And its not like the knowledge can be easily published or taught at schools since much of it is proprietary if not top secret.

RE: Problems
By Grast on 1/23/2007 12:52:54 PM , Rating: 2

If Lockheed went belly up, that would open up the market for a new company to hire all of the old employees. When dealing with billions of dollars in contracts, I find it hard to believe tha no one would start a new company to go after the dollars.

These new companies would have a number of advantages: no unions, no capital costs such as pentions from 30 years ago, good credit, and most importantly new leadership. The problem with current established military contractors is they are old for one and unable to think out side of the box. They refuse or are extremely slow to accept new ideas and ways of development.

In my last job (Intel), I had the pleasure of tring out a new project managment style for application development. The style is called SNORT and currently used by successfull small companies with much less resources than Intel to develop new custom business applications. This managment style was the best I have every been apart. The project was completed ahead of time and below budget with great customer satisfaction. However at the end of the project, the establish leadship decided to not implement further due to lack of experience with the method and choosed to continue in normal matter. In the end, it was easier to continue with business as normal than change to something more effecient.

Large companies are not the end all of businesses. Small to medium size companies are much more effecient. I believe when we talk about the rizing cost of defence. We should be looking for the best and most cost effective method to developing those weapons.


RE: Problems
By masher2 on 1/23/2007 1:03:28 PM , Rating: 2
> "If Lockheed went belly up, that would open up the market for a new company to hire all of the old employees"

True, but that's a process that takes time. More time to build a large company, with facilities, teams that work well together, etc. That's fine if you're building washing machines or stitching together jeans. But in the defense industry, you may not have that time. What if a hostile enemy has cut off vital energy or food supplies or worse, is threatening to invade your borders?

I'm a hard core laissez-faire Capitalist, but a little government meddling in defense and agriculture is probably a good idea. As long as you have food and peace, you have the luxury of allowing time for market forces to work out everything else.

RE: Problems
By stromgald on 1/23/2007 2:58:56 PM , Rating: 2
Like masher, I tend to agree that smaller companies are much more efficient in managing resources. But, the sheer amount of resources to build something like a fighter jet makes it extremely difficult and risky for anytone to enter the defense industry without much prior experience.

Developing contracts, negotiating specifications for everything down to the component level takes alot of time and money. That's where the cost of entering the industry comes from, and the amount of government regulations doesn't help one bit.

If you want smaller, more efficient companies, IMO it would be better to break up a company like Lockheed, Boeing, or Northrop Grumman. However there's a tradeoff in internal management efficiency to supplier efficiency. With Boeing building commercial jets to fighter jets to satellites, there is a commonality in ordering everything from nuts and bolts to Dell computers. You take a cost hit in that area when you break up these big businesses

RE: Problems
By plowak on 1/24/2007 2:23:20 PM , Rating: 2
The best example of lost the skill/technology through nonsupport is found in the lost of how the Romans made their concrete - some of which could set underwater. Took nearly 1500yrs to regain a similar technology. Put me down in the subsudize skills column.

RE: Problems
By Ringold on 1/24/2007 8:19:49 PM , Rating: 2
Hell, it took Europe a mighty long time just to figure out how to read again.. much less build and maintain continent-spanning highway systems and concrete ;)

RE: Problems
By Pneumothorax on 1/23/2007 7:51:13 PM , Rating: 2
That can work when you're dealing with commodities like computers/cars, but not with "sensitive" equipment. It's one thing to have our jeans made in China instead of SF by Levis. I guess if you have it your way, our pilots will be flying Geely/Chery F-25's & our tank drivers will be driving GWM (Great Wall Motors) M3A2 Tanks! lol

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan
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