Bell-Boeing's V-22 Osprey first took to the air nearly
20 years ago and the road to active duty has been a long one. When DailyTech last visited the tilt-rotor aircraft,
the Air Force's CV-22 Osprey was criticized for its "poor aircraft availability"
and "marginal operational availability" during desert testing at
Kirkland Air Force Base.
"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," claimed the
report which was released earlier this year.
"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," said Philip Coyle, senior advisor for the Center for Defense
Despite the troubles, the U.S. Marines will be deploying
seven of its similar MV-22 Ospreys to Iraq in September. The Marines are
hoping that the Osprey’s speed will allow it to quickly transport troops and make
it less of a target for insurgents than slower, traditional helicopters.
"It is our fervent feeling that this aircraft is the
most capable, survivable aircraft that we carry our most important weapons
system in, which is the Marine or rifleman," said Lt. Gen. John Castellaw,
the deputy commandant for aviation for the Marines. "If you've ever gone
rabbit hunting, you know that it's harder to shoot a rabbit that's running than
the one that's sitting still."
The push for the Osprey to enter regular military service
has been a long time coming. In 2007 alone, there have been six crashes
involving U.S. helicopters in Iraq. The Osprey's enviable speed (top speed
316MPH), ability to take-off and land like a helicopter and an operating range
that is three to five times that of traditional helicopters should make it a
great workhorse during its seven month deployment.
The V-22 Osprey is destined to replace the Marines' CH-46
Sky King by 2018. When compared to the CH-46, the Osprey has a range that is
three times farther and has six to seven times the survivability in the field.
The tilt-rotor aircraft has been in development for over 20 years
at a cost of over $20 billion USD.
quote: The single autorotation test in V-22 also demonstrated that the attempt to recover from autorotation to a safe landing by using stored rotor energy to arrest the rate of descent failed markedly. The test data indicate that the aircraft would have impacted the ground at a rate of descent of about 3700 ft/min (61.7 ft/sec) ¾ a fatal rate-of-descent. Authoritative proponents, e.g., the NASA Review Team, have argued that autorotation is not a needed capability for the V-22 due to the low probability of a two-engine failure. My analysis of Navy safety data shows that the Navy/USMC experiences a dual engine failure in a helicopter about once every 3 to 4 years due to fuel contamination onboard a ship. Historically, such accidents have usually been survivable because the helicopter autorotates into the water and the crew and passengers quickly scramble out. If such an event were to occur in V-22, it will probably be fatal to crew and passengers because the aircraft will not smoothly enter autorotation, but most probably depart from controlled flight, and because the cabin is too cramped for a rapid egress.
quote: From higher altitudes, or when operating in airplane it is generally believed that V-22 is capable of conducting a survivable, all engines-inoperative emergency landing...