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…”
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.