The controversial deployment of MV-22 Ospreys to Japan has begun with the arrival of the first 12 aircraft in country.
The tiltrotor aircraft arrived by cargo ship into Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on 23 July, and their offload was closely co-ordinated with the Japanese government.
The basing of the Osprey in Japan has been a highly controversial subject and the arrival of the aircraft was met by protests from people concerned by the aircraft's safety record following recent crashes of the type in the United States and in Morocco.
The Marines Corps says that the MV-22 Ospreys will not conduct functional check flights until the results of safety investigations are presented to the Government of Japan and the safety of flight operations is confirmed.
Following those safety confirmation and functional check flights, the Ospreys will fly to their new home at MCAS Futenma where the aircraft will join tiltrotor squadron, HMM-265.
The Marine Corps want the Ospreys in Japan as part of the ongoing modernisation of its rotary-wing fleet, the Ospreys replacing increasingly elderly CH-46 Sea Knights. A second squadron of 12 aircraft is scheduled to arrive at MCAS Futenma during the summer of 2013.
Israel may lease up to eight V-22s Print By: ARIE EGOZI TEL AVIV 4 hours ago Source:
Faced with insufficient resources to fund the purchase of Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotors, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are instead considering leasing six to eight of the aircraft for the Israeli air force.
Last year the service identified an operational requirement for the V-22, following an evaluation of the type at US Marine Corps facilities in the USA. The IAF had hoped to buy "a number" of tiltrotors for "special operations".
However, the inclusion of funds for the V-22 acquisition in the new multi-year plan for the IDF has been put on ice, thanks to a row between Israel's defence and finance ministries over the defence budget.
A source on 21 August indicated that the IDF still believes there is a requirement for the V-22, and will look at other possible acquisition methods.
Interesting though, it seems the Israelis are trying to get that budget increased in the face of the regional instability. I can imagine that all the rhetoric coming from Iran recently might help sway that argument.
The Osprey After Five Years: Leading A 'Tsunami Of Change' By Robbin Laird Published: August 23, 2012
This September, the controversial Osprey will reach a five-year mark in its operational deployment history. In September 2007, the Osprey was deployed for the first time to Iraq. The plane has not only done well, but in five short years has demonstrated its capability to have not only a significant impact on combat but the re-shape thinking about concepts of operations.
In this piece, I would like to reflect back on these five years, not just to grasp lessons learned, but glimmers of where the plane, and the Navy-Marine Corps team might be able to move into the future. The story of the evolution of the con-ops surrounding the plane provides a solid foundation for innovation and transformation of concepts of operations, if boldness overcomes timidity.
Each year for the past four years, I have driven down to New River Air Station and interviewed Osprey pilots and logisticians becoming known as the Osprey Nation, who form the nucleus of the future of the Marines and of power projection.
We can start with the decision of Marine leaders to deploy the plane to Iraq. This deployment was itself part of the "testing" process. What is often overlooked is that testing is really done by pilots and maintainers in combat, not by technicians in white coats or statisticians at the GAO. There was clear concern expressed to me by Marine aviators that the deployment to Iraq would prove challenging, and its was. But it was also evidence of the role of leadership in making the hard decisions to role out needed capabilities and let the users define the direction of a program, not the program managers.
The deployments have been on land – Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as at sea. The plane and its crews have been tested in combat and in real world operations. What we have seen is that the plane started with training wheels on its deployments, and those wheels not only have been thrown off, but, as time in combat has gone up, the Marines as well as the Combatant Commanders have begun to realize what a transformational platform can do when connected with other capabilities and assets.
The plane started operations in Iraq built around a famous diagram showing the speed and range of the aircraft in covering Iraq. It was the only "helicopter" that could completely cover Iraqi territory. In this role, the testing of support as well as operational capabilities was somewhat limited as Marines tested out capabilities and dealt with operational challenges. The plane was largely used for passenger and cargo transport in support operations. It was used for assault operations from the beginning but over time, the role would expand as the support structure matured, readiness rates grew and airplane availability become increasingly robust.
From the beginning the aircraft impressed and foreshadowed later developments. As General Walsh, now deputy commander of Marine combat development, noted in a 2009 interview the remaining forces had to cover more ground and to provide protection at greater distance. Enter the Osprey, which did not require FOBs to provide lift and support to forward deployed forces.
Indeed, General Walsh underscored that, as the US forces withdraw, there was demand for more -- not less -- airpower. This happened on several levels.
On one level, this was due to the drawdown of the number of combat posts, which supported operations in Iraq. American forces continued to work with Iraqi forces but now had to commute from distance to do their work, rather than being in close proximity to combat posts. This meant that airpower had to provide regular support to the transit of US forces working with Iraqis. "At one point we had 140 combat posts; while we were there we went from 36 to 4 combat posts; so air was relied on more frequently for convoy protection. As we drew down combat posts and associated capabilities, air was relied on for capabilities which had earlier been largely provided by the ground forces," Walsh said. On another level, this was due to the need to protect the convoys moving equipment out of Iraq.
In addition, the Marines were increasingly asked to help Iraqis using the Ospreys. Iraq was the beginning and a conscious raiser for troops and commanders. Next on the agenda was the beginning of deployments to Afghanistan, which of course continue. The Afghan phase of deployments has seen the aircraft and its operator's transition to many more assault combat operations over time, to the point where the latest Osprey squadron just came back from Afghanistan with record-setting assault operations for the Osprey.
One useful metric to measure the transition fro transportation to combat operations can be seen in the number of named operations in which the Osprey squadron has participated in Afghanistan, the air assault operations in support of U.S. and coalition forces. The latest squadron, VMM-365 (the Blue Knights) conducted nearly 200 named operations, a 20-fold increase over the squadron which preceded it in Afghanistan.
In the words of the head of 2nd Marine Air Wing – Maj. Gen. Glen Walters -- on his return from Afghanistan:
"The Ospreys had their normal fair share of general support, resupplies, etc. But we started accelerating their use as my time there went on, and used them for both the conventional and Special Forces operations.
The beauty of the speed of the Osprey is that you can get the Special Operations forces where they need to be and to augment what the conventional forces were doing and thereby take pressure off of the conventional forces. And with the SAME assets, you could make multiple trips or make multiple hits, which allowed us to shape what the Taliban was trying to do.
"The Taliban has a very rudimentary but effective early warning system for counter-air. They spaced guys around their area of interest, their headquarters, etc. Then they would call in on cell or satellite phones to chat or track. It was very easy for them to track. They had names for our aircraft, like the CH-53s, which they called 'Fat Cows.'
"But they did not talk much about the Osprey because they were so quick and lethal. And because of its speed and range, you did not have to come on the axis that would expect. You could go around, or behind them and then zip in. We also started expanding our night operations with the Osprey. We rigged up a V-22 for battlefield illumination.
"A lot of these mission sets were never designed into the V-22 but you put it into the field and configure it to do the various missions required. And we have new software for the Ospreys in Afghanistan where you can pick your approach, angle, approach speed and let the aircraft do it all. That is a huge safety gain."
Afghanistan operations as well as at-sea operations led to a better understanding of the Osprey's impact on concepts of operations. The plane was clearly not a rotorcraft; it was not a replacement for the CH-46. But it took awhile for the concepts of operations to change and commanders to understand fully that they did not have to operate in a constricted operational box of a couple of hundred miles for the ARG-MEU and could instead think about a 1,000-plus mile operational area.
Then, enter Libya. The Osprey got linked to the Gator navy and opened up a whole new capability. The Gator navy began its transition from Greyhound Bus to a strike force capability.
The ability to seamlessly link support services ashore with the deployed fleet via the Osprey allowed the Harriers aboard the USS Kearsarge to increase their sortie rates dramatically. By providing a whole new speed and range enablement of the strike fleet aboard a large deck amphibious ship, the future was being redefined by the Osprey.
And now fast forward to Bold Alligator 2012, the largest amphibious exercise held since 1996. A major difference from 1996 to 2012 was the appearance of the Osprey. Indeed, the existence, deployment and appearance of the Osprey changed the military's entire approach to thinking about amphibious assault. While observers stood on the beach waiting for the assault, Ospreys were already part of taking an "enemy" fort deep in the terrain. On top of that, one of the Ospreys deployed from a supply ship!
Moving forward, we can see glimpses of the future, which could lead to a cascading of change in operational approaches and capabilities if leadership will allow.
I would mention three prospects for change.
First will be the impact of the "self-deployment" capability of the Osprey. The Osprey can fly directly to the area of operation with tanking. Try doing that with a helicopter. In fact, self-deployment is now being used in bringing Ospreys back from Afghanistan and used regularly in exercises.
Self-deployment means that there is a possibility of rethinking how the seabase can work with land-based air. Ospreys can move with the fleet, but also can be reinforced by land-based Ospreys that can augment overall air assault capabilities available to the fleet or combatant commander.
Second is the impact of a new system like the Osprey on avoiding or removing threats. The Osprey has avoided strikes by manpads, RPGs and other weapons fire which would have taken down CH-46s. The Ospreys have proven robust in combat, sustaining ground fire and using their digital management systems and redundant systems to self-correct and, like the Timex watch ad, keep on ticking.
Third, the coming of the F-35B to the fleet coupled with the Osprey is a significant game changer. It may lead to what the commanding officer of VMM 266 (and the Osprey leader in Operation Odyssey Dawn), Lt. Col. Boniface, called a "tsunami of change."
"I sort of think of it like a game of chess. I think of a traditional or legacy ARG-MEU as being able to move a pawn one space at a time towards the enemy. If you have ever played chess it sometimes take a while to engage your opponent. We now have the ability to move a knight, bishop, or rook off of this same chess board and attack 180 degrees towards the rear of our enemy. We can go directly after the king. Yes, it's not really fair, but I like that fact. The speed, range, and don't forget the reliability of the MV-22 allows me to do this," Boniface said.
In the last few weeks the Air Force and the Marines have officially blamed pilot errors for two Osprey crashes. Given the plane's dark past and the continuing controversies about whether it's a safe aircraft I commissioned our regular contributor Richard Whittle, author of "The Dream Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious V-22 Osprey" to interview as many experienced Osprey pilots as he could reach to see if they believe the Osprey is a flawed aircraft or not. His findings follow. The Editor
An Air Force finding that the pilot caused the June 13 crash of a CV-22B Osprey at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in which all five crew on board were injured, marks the second time within weeks a major accident involving the helicopter-airplane hybrid transport has been blamed on the human at the controls, not the machine. Some AOL Defense readers think they see a pattern there that points to a larger conclusion.
"The Osprey is an inherently dangerous and unforgiving aircraft to fly," a reader who identified himself only as "Robert" declared in a comment posted after AOL Defense reported Aug. 16 that a Marine Corps pilot's errors caused an MV-22B to crash during an exercise in Morocco last April. Two crew chiefs died in that accident and both pilots were severely injured.
Robert, whose view echoes those of other critics who have posted their opinions of the Osprey on AOL Defense, added that the V-22's "quirks are numerous and I feel pose an exceedingly dangerous risk when compared to other aircraft."
Against the backdrop of the Morocco and Florida crashes, such comments raise a fair question, Osprey pilots interviewed by AOL Defense agreed: Does the V-22 being a tiltrotor make it dangerously tricky to fly? Nine out of 10 interviewed -- the notable exception being the test pilot who suffered the Osprey's first crash in 1991 - said the opposite is true.
"The first thing I'd ask Robert is, what's his flight experience?" said Bill Leonard, who from 1993-2006 was principal Osprey test pilot for Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., which makes the V-22 in a 50-50 partnership with Boeing Co. Leonard estimates he logged a bit more than 1,000 hours flying succeeding generations of the Osprey, from the 10 prototypes to the fourth-generation Block B. He added that in a 40-year career in which he was shot down four times as a UH-1 Huey helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, continued to fly as an Army special operations aviator, then served as a military and commercial test pilot, he flew about 200 different types of aircraft, from Boeing 747 jumbo jets to gliders.
"Every airplane has its quirks," said Leonard, now an independent contractor who teaches a two-day aerodynamics course to incoming Marine and Air Force Osprey pilots at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. "The Osprey is no different from any other aircraft, whether it's an airplane, a helicopter, a glider, a balloon - whatever it is that goes up and gets away from the surly bonds of Earth," Leonard said. "If you misapply the controls, you'll have a problem."
Leonard and other Osprey pilots generally agreed, though, that because the V-22 is a tiltrotor, it has peculiarities that require pilots to keep in mind they're flying a hybrid, not a conventional helicopter or fixed-wing airplane.
"I don't believe the Osprey is inherently difficult to fly," said Tom Macdonald, who as a Boeing test pilot and later chief of the combined Bell-Boeing-military V-22 test pilot team logged more than 1,150 hours in the tiltrotor from 1991 until he left the program in 2007. Macdonald no longer flies the Osprey but in 2003 won an award from the Society of Experimental Test Pilots for flying dangerous tests to find out when a V-22's rotors might go into a treacherous aerodynamic condition called "vortex ring state," in which a rotor can suddenly lose lift. Vortex ring state was blamed for the Osprey's worst crash, in which 19 Marines died during an operational test at Marana, Ariz., on April 8, 2000.
"There are handling characteristics in flying the Osprey that are starkly different from other aircraft, but those different characteristics are not necessarily bad, they're just different," Macdonald said.
The chief reason the Osprey is different from other aircraft is that it can take off and land like a helicopter by pointing two large rotors housed in swiveling wingtip pods called "nacelles" straight up to 90 degrees or even backward to 97.5 degrees. Once airborne, and after gaining sufficient forward speed flying like a helicopter to produce lift with its wings, the pilot can turn the V-22 into a fixed-wing airplane by pushing a small thumbwheel on the throttle, or Thrust Control Lever (TCL), to tilt the nacelles and rotors forward to angles as low as zero degrees.
The pilot can also stop the nacelles at angles between 60 and roughly 30 degrees above horizontal to make the Osprey fly neither like a pure airplane nor a pure helicopter but something in between.
To accomplish all this, the Osprey has computerized flight controls - known as "fly by wire" - that make the pilot's manual controls - stick, TCL and pedals -- perform differently depending on the mode of flight. The flight control computer mixes helicopter and airplane controls in different proportions as the angles of the nacelles change:
When the Osprey is in helicopter mode, with its nacelles vertical or nearly so - 97.5 to 60 degrees -- and its rotors providing all lift, the pilot's stick, TCL and pedals perform the way helicopter controls do. Pushing the stick forward or pulling it back makes the aircraft move forward or backward. Pushing the stick to either side makes the aircraft move laterally. Adding or removing power with the TCL makes the Osprey gain or lose altitude by collectively changing the angle at which all three blades on each rotor meet the air as they rotate. Pushing the left or right pedal makes the aircraft turn in that direction by altering the angle of the rotor blades cyclically - higher on one side, lower on the other -- as they rotate through the arc they describe.
When the Osprey is flying like an airplane, with nacelles tilted forward between 30 and zero degrees and with the roughly 120 knots of forward airspeed needed to generate all lift from the wings in level flight, the stick, TCL and pedals perform as a fixed-wing aircraft's controls do. Pushing the stick forward or pulling it back will make the aircraft dive or climb by moving the control surface on the tail known as the "elevator." Adding or reducing power with the TCL will make the Osprey fly faster or slower. Pushing the stick sideways will move control surfaces on the wings called "flaperons" in opposite directions to roll or bank the aircraft, and pushing the foot pedals will move the tail rudder to make the Osprey turn.
"The one difference between our aircraft and everybody else's aircraft is the changing controls," said Capt. Justin "Moon" McKinney, a 17-year Marine Corps veteran who flew in the Osprey's first combat deployment to Iraq in 2007 and recently completed two-and-a-half years as an MV-22 operational test pilot. McKinney, who recently rejoined an operational squadron, said that with the nacelles between 30 and 60 degrees, "If you hit power, you're going to go up and forward. All the controls do a little bit of everything."
This is one reason McKinney says flying the Osprey can be a "thinking man's game." But the ability to combine helicopter and airplane functions gives the Osprey unique capabilities, he noted, such as executing what pilots call an "80 Jump" takeoff by tilting the nacelles forward to 80 degrees and applying power. The 80 Jump "gets you out of the dust and gets wind over wings" in a hurry, McKinney said, allowing a quick departure from a landing zone that might come under hostile fire.
In addition to such unique capabilities, the Osprey's large nacelles and rotors create special characteristics a pilot has to take into account, and which underlay the two recent crashes. The wingtip nacelles each contain an engine, rotor system, driveshafts, a gear box and other elements that weigh a total of about 5,500 lbs. and shift the aircraft's center of gravity as they move forward and back. Osprey pilots are taught in training that the aircraft's nose must be held level or pitched up when the nacelles are being tilted forward. Swinging that much weight forward can shift the aircraft's center of gravity so far the controls can't prevent it from diving.
Failure to keep that in mind contributed to the April 11 Marine Corps crash in Morocco, which occurred when a pilot with 160 hours in the MV-22B lifted into a hover, turned to head in the other direction, let the nose pitch down as he did, then tilted the nacelles farther forward than allowed with less than 40 knots of airspeed, and with a tail wind impinging on the elevator.
"Helicopters lower the nose and pull pitch to accelerate," observed retired Marine Lt. Col. Jim "Trigger" Schafer, who, as a member of a Marine Corps/Air Force Multiservice Operational Test Team (MOTT),flew operational tests of the Osprey in 1995-2000. "You can't fly the V-22 like a helicopter."
Schafer, who lost close friends in the Osprey's crashes during development, added that the V-22 "is one of the easiest aircraft I've flown" in helicopter or airplane mode. However, he said, "All that conversion/transition stuff in between is a unique V-22 skill set that must be taught with repetition and building seat time." In Morocco, he said, "It appears the aircraft was flown beyond its capability. Take a perfectly good Cessna 172 and take off and pull back on the nose and not support the pitch attitude with airspeed, the aircraft will stall."
Another Osprey characteristic is the powerful downwash of its rotors, a function of their size compared to the thrust they need to produce. Designed to fit on the deck of an amphibious assault ship, the Osprey's rotors are 38 feet in diameter -- about five feet less than would have been optimum for an aircraft designed to carry 24 Marines and take off vertically at a maximum gross weight of 52,600 lbs., according to engineers who helped design it. The V-22's rotor blades are also twisted far more than a helicopter's because they have to grab the air like propellers when flying in airplane mode. This combination of relatively small diameter and high twist creates the Osprey's strong downwash, a feature known as "high disk loading."
The Osprey's rotor wash is powerful enough that pilots are instructed to keep at least 250 feet separation between their cockpit and that of a V-22 flying ahead when flying in formation and in helicopter mode so as to avoid the lead aircraft's rotor wake. Marine Corps and Air Force flight manuals also admonish pilots to avoid the lead aircraft's 5 to 7 o'clock position, fly at least 25 feet higher, and increase that separation to 50 feet when forced to cross the lead's wake.
Failure to follow those rules runs the risk that the turbulence from the lead V-22's rotor wake will knock the lift out from under one of the trailing aircraft's rotors, causing a snap roll that may be unrecoverable - the cause of the June 13 CV-22B crash, the Air Force accident report found. The Air Force report on the accident, however, said that while the pilots failed to see that they were flying through another Osprey's wake, "CV-22 wake modeling is inadequate for a trailing aircraft to make accurate estimations of safe separation from the preceding aircraft."
The high disk loading of the Osprey's rotors also causes a V-22 phenomenon called "lateral darting." When hovering 10 or 15 feet above the ground or over a ship's deck, the Osprey is subject to slipping quickly to one side or the other as turbulence created by its rotors disturbs the air beneath it. Numerous modifications to the flight control software over the years have helped with that problem, current Osprey pilots said, but lateral darting is one reason former V-22 test pilot Grady Wilson recalls the aircraft as "squirrely."
"It puts out a gale force wind underneath it," Wilson said. "So you hover at 50 feet, because as you start to come down ... it wobbles around." Current Osprey pilots said the tactic used to avoid lateral darting is to "fly the aircraft to the deck" rather than hover at low levels. Wilson, who joined Boeing to fly the Osprey in late 1990 after flying Hueys in Vietnam and serving as an Army and NASA test pilot, added that the V-22 "was a tricky aircraft to fly from the time I got into it."
Wilson was piloting Osprey prototype No. 5 at Greater Wilmington Airport in Delaware on June 11, 1991, when the aircraft went haywire at takeoff and pirouetted nose-first into a runway from low altitude. As it turned out, a worker had inadvertently reverse-wired part of the flight controls, making them malfunction. Wilson and his copilot walked away from the crash, but Wilson quit the next year after another Boeing test pilot, three other company employees and three Marines were killed in Osprey prototype No. 4, which plunged into the Potomac River at Quantico Marine Base after a fire in its right nacelle crippled the engine and rotor on that side.
"It's tricky because you have two opposing mindsets as a pilot to operate under," said Wilson, who flew the Osprey a bit less than 90 hours in all. "One is go fast; the other is hover and precision. They're counter to each other." Wilson added that, in his view, "You need a fairly experienced helicopter guy to handle this thing."
Former test pilot and aerodynamics instructor Leonard said he respected Wilson's views but found them out of date.
"One of the biggest problems we've had in the community is getting past the idea that it's a helicopter that flies fast," Leonard said. "It's not. It's an airplane that hovers. And if you fly the airplane like a helicopter, yes, it's very difficult to fly as a helicopter. And if you do that, you have a very good chance of having a problem with controllability because of the way the aircraft operates. If you fly it like an airplane and you are willing to take the time to understand the capabilities of it in helicopter, it's a very, very easy airplane to fly."
One active duty V-22 pilot, speaking on condition of anonymity because he hadn't been authorized to comment, cited himself as a prime example of what Leonard meant. Originally a fighter jet pilot, this officer transferred to the Osprey, became an operational pilot and has flown combat missions in the V-22 without ever touching the controls of a helicopter - as have a small number of other current Osprey pilots. Helicopter experience has proven unnecessary, this pilot said, because today's Osprey has an Automated Flight Control System that has been refined so much since the prototypes Wilson flew that it makes it easy to hover the aircraft.
"I still have never flown a helicopter, don't have a single minute of helicopter flying time, but if I can come from a (fighter jet) and have no problems hovering this airplane, then it's a pretty darn stable airplane," this pilot said. "Fixed wing pilots almost have an easier time coming in because in a helicopter you're always working, always working. This is all (helicopter pilots) know. We (fixed-wing pilots) actually hover (in the Osprey) better than a lot of helicopter pilots because the helicopter pilots have it ingrained in them, 'I'm in a hover; I've got to be making corrections.' So they're constantly moving the controls when they don't necessarily need to."
Thanks to the automated flight controls, this pilot added, "I'll tell you this: if you ever get to the point where you're hovering and you're working too hard, let go of the controls, and that airplane will hover just fine - better than you, because it has an automatic flight control system that's constantly, every nanosecond, making inputs based on what the pilot's doing, based on what all the flight control computers and those airborne sensors outside are taking in."
Arthur "Rex" Rivolo, an Air Force F-4 Phantom fighter jet pilot in Vietnam who later flew helicopters in the Air National Guard and in the 1990s monitored the Osprey's development program for a federally funded think tank said he remained convinced that, "The V-22 is indeed a slippery aircraft."
"It is prone to small pilot errors and those small errors have catastrophic results," Rivolo said in an email. "The additional degree of freedom [nacelle angle], along with the side-by-side differential control for roll and yaw greatly increases the complexity of the 'decision space' for the pilot. The flight envelope is of a much higher dimensionality and much more complex that any conventional helo or a fixed-wing aircraft. Training does not address these issues well."
Macdonald, who heatedly debated the V-22's merits with Rivolo more than a decade ago, when the Osprey was being redesigned and retested following two crashes in the year 2000, said he believed the aircraft's record since then simply hasn't borne out Rivolo's views.
Since the Osprey's first flight in 1989, there have been six V-22 crashes, three during its development prior to 2000, in which four Boeing employees and 26 Marines perished, and three since it was redesigned and retested between 2001-2005, then put into service with the Marines and Air Force. In the three Osprey crashes since 2001, a total of six persons have died. Since Oct. 1, 2001, the U.S. military has lost 416 helicopters - mostly to accidents - at a cost of 623 American lives.
Retired Air Force Col. Jim Shaffer, a former special operations helicopter pilot who from 1997-2000 commanded his service's contingent of the MOTT, agreed with Macdonald. "I flew (MH-53) Pave Low helicopters for a couple of decades," Shaffer emailed, "and as much as I love that machine [now in the boneyard], it tried to kill me many times." Shaffer added that a "quick look at the mishap rate" shows that the Osprey is "well above some other machines" in safety.
Two of the three Osprey crashes since 2001 have been Air Force CV-22Bs, including one that made a hard landing while carrying Army Rangers on a night raid in Afghanistan in 2010, then flipped onto its back after its nose gear hit a ditch, killing four of 20 persons on board. After the recent crash at Eglin, said retired Maj. Paul Alexander, who between 2004-2009 was one of the Air Force's first four CV-22 instructors, the service is discussing whether to hire experienced hands such as himself to help train new pilots. The Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) uses such an arrangement with retired 160th SOAR pilots, Alexander said, which allows experienced active duty pilots to focus on operations.
"The experience level in the Air Force in the Osprey community is starting to diminish because they picked, initially, many pilots who had the experience to help the program get off the ground, and many of those pilots have been promoted or have retired like myself and are moving on to other jobs," said Alexander, who flew MH-47 Chinooks for the 160th SOAR for 15 years before transferring to the Air Force to fly the Osprey. "This is an aircraft that, being rather new still, you don't have that experience depth or that base to work with."
Heavy operational demand for AFSOC's two dozen CV-22Bs, meanwhile, has made it hard for Air Force Osprey pilots to get as much training time as they would like. AFSOC's Osprey pilots had been doing very little training in formation flying prior to the Eglin crash. After initial training with the Marines, incoming AFSOC pilots have been required to do only two formation flights in their Air Force CV-22B training, one in daytime and one at night, and they were given the option to waive the daytime flight, one AFSOC pilot said. Since the Eglin crash, however, CV-22B pilots are getting more copilot training hours, this pilot added, and formation flying is getting new emphasis.
AFSOC spokeswoman Capt. Kristen Duncan disputed the pilot's unauthorized description of CV-22B formation flight training. "Air Force aircrews learn formation skills in undergraduate pilot training, and much of that is transferrable to any aircraft type," Duncan said by email. "During CV-22 Mission Qualification training our aircrews have 10 formation flights. Continuation training requires four NVG (Night Vision Goggle) formation flights per semi-annual period. In reality, since Air Commandos train as they fight, a large percent of continuation training flights are scheduled as formation flights."
Maj. Frank Lazzara, who as an Army warrant officer flew OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters for seven years before transferring into the Air Force in 2005 to fly MH-53s and later CV-22s, said all AFSOC pilots would welcome more time to train.
"Do all Osprey pilots in our squadrons get to fly enough? They certainly don't get the time that I got as a young 53 pilot or as an initial Osprey cadre guy," said Lazzara, who in addition to flying operational missions for AFSOC serves as a CV-22B instructor. "When people are not trained properly or don't follow their training," he added, "there is a vulnerability there. But that's true for any aircraft."
Or, as former Osprey test pilot Bill Leonard put it, "What we do is risky."
An Afghan Report: The Osprey Returns from Afghanistan, 2012
In a wide ranging discussion with Lt. Col. Christian Harshberger, Commanding Officer of VMM 365, the Blue Knights, shortly after his return from Afghanistan. He was a CH-46 operator prior to entering the V-22 world a couple of years ago.
In January of 2009, Lieutenant Colonel Harshberger reported to II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) for assignment as the G-3 Expeditionary/Ground Operations Section Head and then as Assistant Officer-in-Charge, II MEF Special Operations Training Group. After completing MV-22 Transition Training, Lieutenant Colonel Harshberger reported to VMM-365 in June 2011 for duty as the Executive Officer before assuming command of the squadron in April 2012 while deployed to Afghanistan Lieutenant Colonel Harshberger’s decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Prior to this tour, he had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This was his second tour in Afghanistan, but the first with the Osprey,
The discussion with the Lt. Col. provided a virtual report card on progress in using the Osprey evidenced by his latest tour in Afghanistan,
Harshberger: “We really stopped being used for general support and focused significantly greater attention on air assault. VMM-365 returned from OEF at the end of 2010. And we went back at the beginning of 2012.
During the VMM-365 deployment, the squadron did 10 named operations. During this deployment we did 193 named operations.
These were largely in-fils and ex-fils of combat troops. In April of this year we went from doing three name operations a week to ten.
We did a large number of these operations under the cover of darkness, often using battlefield illumination to aid in our landings. Many times there were CH-53s involved as well.
We did three battalion level inserts. We provided six aircraft in a typical air assault support role. And in one night operation inserted nearly 600 Marines.. A Marine with Marine Aircraft Group 40 shields himself, Nov. 6, from the dirt and rocks blown around from the first wave of MV-22B ‘Osprey’ entering the Taskforce Helmand area of operation. Credit: 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, 11/6/09
SLD: With that many operations, I am sure you got fired on and got a real world test on survivability of the aircraft. What was your experience in this regard?
Harshberger: During 26 of our operations, fires were directed at us. Fourteen of those were during Named Operations, and included a variety of things such as small arms, mini machine guns and RPGs. We had a couple of incidents where we had a double-digit number of RPGs shot at us. Our tail gunner engaged on 12 different occasions on our operations.
And during our time out there, one Osprey was hit 11 times and another 8 times. And such experiences, proved the importance of the redundancy and survivability built into the aircraft.
We had damage to a variety of things, like fuel systems, hydraulics, structural systems, blades, etc.
But the triple redundant hydraulic systems went through their digital management logic and started to isolate damaged elements and shut things down and re-routed as the computer brain determined.
In a legacy aircraft, you would have had to push buttons to isolate damage to make sure that when you operated your gear, you did not make the situation worse. With this plane, all the self-sealing fuel tanks, self sealed; those enormous blades on the V-22, took significant incoming bullets with no degradation whatsoever.
My aircraft was shot one day, but I was able to fly the aircraft and execute the mission.
SLD: And with the speed of the aircraft, I assume that you get shot at less than a CH-46?
Harshberger: That is correct, We do get shot at less, because we are not down in those environments in which the CH-46 must operate.
And even when we land, the speed of the aircraft enhances survivability. We get shot at less in the terminal phase because we can come in and slow down very rapidly and land and then when we take off, we are out of the weapons engagement zone very quickly.
It is hard to prove a negative; but we avoid a number of situations, which would very difficult and dangerous for rotorcraft.
SLD: And how did the range and speed of the aircraft affect ability to use a greater range of combat personnel?
Harshberger: It allowed us to leverage a much wider range of combat capability. We could take units directly to the action rather than them being moved by C-130s and then waiting until darkness and then deployed on a CH-53 and then going on the mission.
SLD: What about availability of aircraft in the AOR?
Harshberger: On average if I had 12 Ospreys, 8.5 were available for operations. So on average I would have 8 or 9 aircraft available out of the 12 each month.
SLD: Beyond the Special Forces, how did the Army react to what your plane could do?
Harshberger: They became very interested in working with us on Medevac missions.
They would pop their equipment modules into the Osprey and have us fly to where the injured soldier was operated throughout the AOR. There were a couple of times we got to the action so quickly that the Army was bringing the wounded up to the Forward Operating Base and we were arriving. What would take a helo 35 minutes to do we could do in 13.
Rumor has it that Bob Cox accepted a position in American Eurocopter's communication department.
Not that his objectivity at the Ft Worth Star Telegram was ever unquestionable over the years (will be interesting to see if he maintains a spot writing for the newspaper under the guise of an "unbiased" contributor).
Im still trying to figure out who at Bell Helicopter ran over his dog to start this vendetta.
Last edited by SansAnhedral; 2nd Nov 2012 at 20:31.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N) and Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc (TXT.N), have won a contract valued at $1.4 billion for 21 V-22 tiltrotor Osprey aircraft, the U.S. Defense Department said on Friday. In a daily digest of major weapons contracts, the Pentagon said it had modified an existing advanced procurement contract with the Bell-Boeing joint venture to cover production of the additional aircraft. The contract also includes funding for advanced procurement of materials for 22 additional aircraft to be funded in fiscal year 2014, which begins next October.
Israeli pilots give detailed assessment of V-22 tiltrotor By: Arie Egozi Tel Aviv 12:43 14 Jan 2013 Source: Flight International
Israel is continuing to evaluate a possible acquisition of the Bell BoeingV-22 Osprey, with fresh details having emerged about the experience gained by two of its helicopter pilots in flying the tiltrotor type. The Israeli air force magazine has released parts of a report written by senior helicopter pilots, identified only as Lt Col Avi and Lt Col Nimrod, who flew the US Marine Corps' MV-22 in the USA during 2011 and 2012. During their assessment, the pair flew the type in conditions ranging from daylight to pitch darkness, and during dust landings and operations in other extreme conditions. They were accompanied by Israeli technical experts, who also completed a thorough evaluation of the V-22 system.
Israeli air force magazine
Avi, a Sikorsky CH-53 helicopter pilot at the Israeli air force's flight test centre, pointed out several factors with the tiltrotor concept that might challenge some pilots.
"The plane is naturally energetic. The accelerations are literally breathtaking and the mid-stage in which the plane transitions from a vertical standpoint to a horizontal one is problematic as well," he says.
"The pilot uses a control stick and a system that is similar to a throttle. In one standpoint, the control stick serves to determine altitude while the 'throttle' serves to determine speed. In the other standpoint, each of them serves the opposite role. In the mid-stage you feel like you're losing control of the plane. I imagined that the fly-by-wire system would function more smoothly, but discovered that in some cases we needed to intervene." However, Avi says that in all other areas, the system surpassed his expectations. "One of the biggest problems that helicopter pilots have when flying a plane with fixed wings is stalling", he explains. "On regular planes it's very easy to lose control, while on the V-22 you need to try very hard to stall." In their report, the pilots also tried to address the tiltrotor's ability to meet Israel's operational needs.
Israeli air force magazine
"We examined how the plane would alter operational activities we've carried out and will carry out in the future deep in enemy lines," Nimrod says. "While some of the operations would have changed completely with its help, there are some that would not have been altered at all. For example, in the situation in which we needed to bring back forces from Lebanon, I suspect that the plane had no real advantages." However, he notes: "It's safe to assume that when evacuating injured people inside Israel, the plane would be a less efficient choice, but when rescuing from far away land, using the plane would make a significant difference.
"We realised that the plane will absolutely change the name of the game. It will be able to carry out operations that we never imagined that one of our planes could execute. If we purchase the plane, our ranges of activity will dramatically change and we'll be able to reach points we've never even dreamed of," he concludes. The air force's final report following the evaluations was in favour of purchasing a number of V-22s for use during missions defined as special operations, and not as direct replacements for its existing helicopters. As previously reported by Flightglobal, the general staff of the Israel defence forces is also considering a possible lease agreement for between six and eight V-22s. Deliveries of the V-22 have so far been made only to the USMC and US Air Force, with the Bell Boeing partnership still seeking its first export customer for the type. Some 159 of the aircraft are currently operational, as recorded by Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database. Israeli pilots give detailed assessment of V-22 tiltrotor
First Presidential V-22 takes flight US Navy 25 Jan, 13 Aircraft 197, the first MV-22 to be assigned to Marine Helicopter Squadron (HMX) 1, hovers over the runway during a test flight at the Bell-Boeing V-22 assembly plant in Amarillo, Texas, on Jan. 22.
The aircraft, crewed by pilot Marine Corps Maj. Chuck Bodwell, co-pilot Capt. William Thomas and crew chief Staff Sgt. Ronald Benton was performing a governmental test flight prior to expected delivery to the Marine Corps in February 2013. The aircraft engine nacelles and tail empennage are painted in the iconic green of the Presidential Squadron; the remaining parts of the aircraft will be painted before delivery. More than a dozen MV-22s, the Marine Corps variant of the V-22 Osprey, will be assigned to HMX-1. The MV-22s will be assigned to the executive support squadron, providing logistics and passenger support to Marine One flights and will be responsible for flying very important persons (VIPs) to various locations in and around Washington, D.C. The MV-22s will replace the CH-46Es operating with the squadron.