Remember the V-22 Osprey of the 1990s and the 2000s? There even was a JAG episode about it. Liberals have been trying to shut down the V-22 Osprey program for over a decade, and they’re still trying to, but so far, they’ve failed to. And thank God they’ve failed to do so, because V-22 Ospreys, despite their initial problems, have been crucial, indeed indispensable, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. They’ve performed magnificently, ferrying troopers into or out of theaters whenever needed.
Yet, none of their accomplishments to date has been as significant as this one:
“On March 22, two Marine V-22 Osprey rotorcraft from the amphibious assault vessel USS Kearsarge rescued an Air Force pilot whose fighter had crashed in Libya. It was the first time Marines had used the V-22 in such a mission, and the operation went very well owing to the fact that the V-22 is the only aircraft in the world that can fly as far and fast as a turboprop airplane, and then hover or land like a helicopter. Within 90 minutes the downed pilot was safely retrieved, opening a new chapter in the expanding chronicle of Osprey successes. The V-22s used in the Libyan rescue mission had been sent to the Mediterranean from a Marine unit operating in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, where local commanders have praised the agility and resilience of the aircraft. Only weeks before the rescue, the unit in Helmand had recorded the 100,000th flight hour for the V-22 program, which is rapidly changing the way the Marine Corps performs military operations.”
When the chips were down and everyone was counting on the V-22 Osprey, it worked, and it rescued the downed pilot in just 90 minutes. (Actually, it was two V-22s, not one.)
Ospreys have served in three countries – Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – in real wars, under real combat conditions, and they’ve performed magnificently so far. The Congress should continue to fund them, and the USAF should choose V-22s as their planned heavy CSAR aircraft.
As Thompson has noted:
“It isn’t hard to see why the Marines liked the idea: the unrefueled combat radius of the V-22 is more than twice that of the aging Sea Knight helicopters it is replacing, and the V-22 flies over a hundred miles per hour faster. As one Marine commander in Iraq put it, the Osprey “turns Texas into Rhode Island,” greatly increasing the reach of U.S. ground forces with an aircraft that is both more versatile and more survivable than any conventional helicopter.
But in warfare as in other facets of life, it takes a while for reputation to catch up with reality. Last November, the two chairmen of the president’s bipartisan deficit commission included early termination of V-22 production in their list of suggested savings from the military budget, citing the program’s “troubled history” and maintenance issues. Apparently the staffers who put together the recommendations didn’t realize that the Osprey has become by far the safest rotorcraft in the Marine Corps air fleet, suffering no fatal accidents in over a decade despite prolonged deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and other places. The only fatal accident to occur recently was the loss of an Air Force V-22 during a combat mission in Afghanistan, and in that mishap 16 of the 20 personnel on board survived a high-speed collision with the ground despite the fact that the V-22 flipped over, due to a host of survivability features built into the aircraft. The staffers probably also didn’t realize that for all its technological sophistication, the V-22 is actually the cheapest rotorcraft that the Marines operate when measured in terms of the cost per seat mile.
The reason these facts are not widely known is that arcane warfighting systems like the V-22 seldom get covered in the general media unless something really bad happens, and that usually means either loss of life or a big hike in expected costs. The Osprey has suffered both kinds of setbacks during its history, but not lately so the views many “experts” have of the program are outdated.”
These opinions are as outdated as dinosaurs. They are completely inaccurate regarding the V-22 program of today. The V-22 program is now progressing smoothly: it remains on cost target, and production is proceeding smoothly. But most importantly, the V-22 is a must-have program, because V-22 Ospreys are vastly superior to any other rotorcraft. They can fly farther, and twice faster, than any helicopter, are more survivable in combat and accidents alike, and can rescue distressed troopers and pilots much faster than helicopters. The DOD should order dozens of additional V-22s. It should specifically order 39 V-22s to replace the USN’s 39 C-2 Greyhounds, 2 V-22s to replace 2 Ospreys lost in GWOT theaters, 5 V-22s to replace 5 MH-53s which were retired unreplaced, 22 V-22s to replace 22 MH-53s which were retired unreplaced, and 203 V-22s to replace the USAF’s MH-60s and UH-1Ns. V-22s are, as stated earlier, superior to any helicopters, and can thus perform CSAR missions much better than any helicopters.
Most importantly, its primary users, Marine pilots, like it. Just listen to them. And watch this film about how the V-22 proved its mettle, proved itself to be far more capable and useful than any helicopter (its speed and service ceiling really matter in combat zones), and what the Marines say about it. Also listen to USMC Commandant Gen. James Amos, a Naval Aviator by trade, who has strongly praised the V-22 and urged its continued production. (Whom will you believe – a real Marine general or armchair generals?) Also listen to his predecessor, Gen. James Conway.
Also, the USMC should rethink its amphibious wars planning. Amphibious landings are still feasible, at least in some countries, but during this century, Marines will have to disembark from warships at increasingly long distances. Therefore, instead of planning an amphibious-only landing, Marines should plan for dual amphibious/aerial landings by AAVs/EFVs and by V-22s, thus not relying on one mode of transport and complicating an enemy’s defense.
Thompson’s entire article is available here: http://blogs.forbes.com/beltway/2011/04/04/the-much-maligned-v-22-osprey-is-confounding-critics/