V-22 Osprey – Time fails the fairness test

Time magazine has taken a hatchet to the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey in its latest US issue. Publishing its “special investigation” as the US Marine Corps deploys the tiltrotor to Iraq, Time makes its makes opinion clear on the cover: “It’s unsafe. It can’t shoot straight. It’s already cost 30 lives and $20 billion…”

20071008_107.jpg The “investigation”, by Mark Thompson, is anything but “special”. Fundamentally, it’s a rehash of every criticism levelled at the V-22 since the programme began more than 20 years ago. Any valid concerns Thompson raises are lost amidst the shoddy reporting and biased writing.

Here I need to make clear that I want the V-22 to succeed. I think the tiltrotor has great potential. But I accept there are valid concerns that can be raised over the Osprey. It’s cost and complexity are issues. Designing and building the V-22 has stressed Bell and Boeing. Learning to fly a tiltrotor safely and effectively has tested the Marine Corps.

But the Osprey is now in the hands of the Marines. They remain steadfastly committed to the aircraft and say they have developed tactics to exploit the tiltrotor’s strengths and mitigate its weaknesses. They are also going into combat, and publicly acknowledge they may lose aircraft. But the Marines expect the V-22 to be more survivable than their aging CH-46 helicopters.

After spending $20 billion, it would be hard for the Marines to admit they did not get what they wanted in the Osprey. But it will also be hard to hide any fundamental deficiences in combat. Iraq will be a far more rigorous “special investigation” of the V-22 than any Time magazine article.

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7 Responses to V-22 Osprey – Time fails the fairness test

  1. jake 2 October, 2007 at 12:00 am #

    While some of the concerns voiced are indeed legitimate, I agree that the Time article’s biased reporting missed this crucial point: the V-22 _will_ be used as a glorified truck in Iraq, but it’s real potential lies in future conflicts. Marine and special ops will use it for deep insertions in the future. In such missions, the key to survivability will be stealth. This is true of a helicopter or a hybrid like the Osprey. What the Osprey adds to the equation, then, is increased range and shorter transit -read, danger- time. IMHO, that’s where the Marines see the Osprey’s potential.

  2. The Woracle 2 October, 2007 at 2:40 am #

    Agreed. Iraq is not the “from the sea” amphibious assault mission that drove the Marines to select a speedy tiltrotor. Another example, perhaps, of ending up not fighting the war you planned for. But the chances are that planned-for war will come, one day.

  3. Jason 2 October, 2007 at 5:30 pm #

    As a former Marine, I can tell you that my mission in the Air Wing would have been dramatically simplified and put far fewer Marines on the ground and in the air if we had a V-22. I’m so excited by what it opens up for Marine Corps capabilities. The forward deployed operations that we defended on the ground to maintain helicopters close enough to the fight would not be needed — the footprint is dramatically reduced as much of that support can now stay on the ship, leaving less to defend and supply in harm’s way. This bird will do incredible things for the Marines.

  4. Dan 2 October, 2007 at 9:01 pm #

    To add to the “stealth” comment from above:
    I have seen many V-22s fly and it is very quiet when flying in airplane mode. So quiet you can hardly hear it until it’s outbound.

  5. The Woracle 2 October, 2007 at 9:27 pm #

    I will direct you to a blog by Ward Carroll, who is quoted in the Time article.

    http://www.defensetech.org/archives/003759.html

    It makes clear that Mark Thompson selectively quoted from his interview with Carroll.

  6. John 3 October, 2007 at 7:56 pm #

    Graham,

    Yours and other articles in Flightglobal.com reference the MV-22 as having a ramp mounted .50 machine gun.

    Isn’t the MV-22 deploying to Iraq with a ramp mounted M240D 7.62mm machine gun?

  7. The Woracle 3 October, 2007 at 8:05 pm #

    Guilty as charged – beware the archives! You’re right, John, it’s a 7.62mm minigun (I will go correct the flightglobal story now – ah, technology…)

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