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V-22 Testing Turns up Trouble

Discussion in 'The US Air Force Forum' started by Blitzer, Jan 23, 2007.

  1. Blitzer

    Blitzer Cool Cat

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    Source NewsStand | Christopher J. Castelli |

    January 22, 2007

    The V-22 Osprey, which may deploy to Iraq with Marines this year, suffered problems that hurt its mission effectiveness when the Air Force tested it for a month in the New Mexico desert, according to a new report from the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.

    The problems are described in the latest annual report from the Defense Department’s operational testing directorate, led by Charles McQueary.

    The V-22 is a helicopter-plane hybrid developed by Bell Helicopter Textron and Boeing. During an “operational utility evaluation” conducted last summer in the desert at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM, the effectiveness of the Osprey for training missions and potential combat missions was “degraded by poor aircraft availability,” says the report, issued Jan. 18.

    “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,” the report says.

    Some of the reliability problems “may be attributable to the extended exposure to the desert operating environment” where the assessment occurred, says the report.

    The Osprey provided only “marginal operational availability” during the 41 flights (74 flight hours), the report says.

    The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center conducted the assessment using four of the service’s CV-22 aircraft. The testing started June 6, 2006, and wrapped up July 10, said Katherine Gandara, a spokeswoman for the center. The final test flight for the assessment was conducted June 30, she said. All of the testing took place in the desert, she said.

    The Marine Corps version of the V-22 would likely suffer the same kinds of problems in desert conditions, a Pentagon source said.

    Both versions of the aircraft are very similar except the CV-22 has some extra equipment for special operations missions. The Air Force plans to buy 50 Ospreys for its special operations troops, while the Marine Corps plans to buy 360.

    The report urges the V-22 program to correct the deficiencies noted in the “operational utility evaluation” before the CV-22 begins its initial operational testing and evaluation in FY-08.

    The report also calls on the program to monitor the operational suitability of the Marine Corps’ Block B version of the Osprey, which is due to deploy this year, to determine the “discrepancy” between the solid performance reported in the operational evaluation of the Marine Corps version and the problems now coming to light.

    James Darcy, the Navy’s spokesman for the V-22 program, said the problems encountered in last summer’s testing involved both known and previously unknown issues.

    Program officials do not believe these issues will delay fielding plans for the Marine Corps or Air Force versions of the Osprey, he said.

    Darcy said the testing in New Mexico was originally intended to test the Air Force’s rigorous training curriculum. This was a “much more stressful evaluation” compared to the conditions and types of flights that the V-22 program anticipates on an actual deployment, he said.

    But Philip Coyle, a former director of operational testing and evaluation at the Pentagon, and now a senior adviser with the Center for Defense Information, said it is amazing how many reliability problems continue to affect the V-22.

    “This produces a maintenance and support burden that the Marines really can’t afford,” he said. “All of the reliability problems that they continue to have here in the [United] States -- it’s going to drive them crazy overseas.”
  2. Blitzer

    Blitzer Cool Cat

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    Jan 15, 2004
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    V-22 Flaws Called 'Lethal'

    Fort Worth Star-Telegram | January 20, 2007

    Hoping to re-energize congressional opposition to the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, critics of the controversial tilt-rotor aircraft released a study Thursday warning that the aircraft is plagued by inherent design flaws and will endanger U.S. lives when it goes into combat this year.

    The study, commissioned by the Center for Defense Information, a Washington think tank, calls for Congress to scrap the V-22 and replace it with a lower-costing helicopter capable of performing similar missions, although it would be slower.

    Co-manufactured by Bell Helicopter Textron of Fort Worth and Boeing Helicopters of Ridley Park, Pa., the Osprey was near cancellation early in the decade after four crashes killed 30. Two crashes occurred in 2000, resulting in 23 deaths.
    Learn more about the V-22 Osprey

    The program has rebounded after a redesign and more than 19,000 hours of flight tests.

    It now has strong support in Congress as Marines move toward sending the first V-22 squadrons into combat -- possibly Iraq or Afghanistan -- by the summer.

    But the center's study, "V-22: Wonder Weapon or Widow Maker?" warns that the hybrid aircraft still has "operational, aerodynamic and survivability challenges that will prove insurmountable, and lethal, in combat."

    "We're trying to alert the system that the problems haven't gone away," said Winslow Wheeler, director of the center's Straus Military Reform Project, which monitors military and national-security issues.

    The report prompted a scathing rebuttal from the V-22 manufacturing team and its defenders in the military, who contended that the study rehashed problems that have been corrected.

    "It really baffles us as to why this organization would come out with an anti-V-22 diatribe when clearly the aircraft is performing well," Bell-Boeing spokesman Bob Leder said. "Apparently, they just used a lot of out-of-date information -- or disinformation."

    Among other points, the study says the V-22 remains susceptible to a dangerous aerodynamic phenomenon known as a vortex ring state, which occurs when a rotor becomes enmeshed in its own downwash and loses lift.

    V-22 pilots, under pressure to avoid enemy gunfire, run the risk of triggering a vortex ring by descending too fast under combat conditions, said Lee Gaillard, a Philadelphia science and military writer who authored the report. Rapid descent vertically or at low forward air speed "creates conditions ripe for VRS," the report said.

    "If the Osprey goes into combat, it may cause its own casualties," Gaillard said in outlining the report at a Center for Defense Information briefing.

    A vortex ring state was blamed for one of the crashes in 2000.

    But James Darcy of the Navy's V-22 Joint Program Office said testing and review have proven that the V-22 is far less vulnerable to vortex rings than traditional helicopters and can easily speed through the turbulent air by tilting the engines forward.

    The Marine Corps plans to buy 360 MV-22s to replace aging helicopters to speed troops and supplies into combat.

    The Air Force plans to buy 50 CV-22s for special operations, and the Navy plans to buy 48 Ospreys for rescue operations.

    Source: V-22 Flaws called "Lethal"