A “waste of time” hearing on V-22

Two US Marine Corps officers, visibly frustrated, conferred on a live microphone only moments after Rep Edolphus Towns closed a 3hr hearing on the alleged failings of the MV-22 Osprey.

“This has been a waste of time,” Col Karsten Heckl, recently returned from Iraqi duty, said. That drew a sharp response from Lt Gen George Trautman: “Calm down!”

But Heckl might be excused for his outburst.

Heckl was called to Capitol Hill to defend the V-22 before a panel of mostly hostile lawmakers, but this was a battle the combat pilot never had a chance to win.

The panel was armed with a recycled — yet never completely refuted — list of criticisms about the V-22′s potential “idiosyncracies”, a blistering attack on the tiltrotor by a former Pentagon insider, and a fresh Government Accountability Office (GAO) report unveiling new details about supply chain and parts reliability problems.

The GAO report listed 12 parts that expired within one-third of their promised lifetimes, driving the V-22′s cost per flying hour up to $11,000. “That to us should be a major concern,” Mike Sullivan, GAO’s director of acquisition and sourcing management, told the panel. “They should be further down a design growth curve than they are today.”

Except for the GAO report, the hearing could have happened 10 years ago.

That was when Rex Rivolo, formerly of the Institute for Defense Analysis, discovered the US Marine Corps lied about the V-22′s ability to autorotate (it can’t). Rivolo has spoken out publicly about his concerns only once — Time magazine’s infamous 2007 cover story about the V-22 — but they haven’t changed. If the FAA can’t certify the airworthiness of the V-22 without an autorotation capability, marines shouldn’t fly in it, Rivolo told the lawmakers.

Lack of autoration means that if there is a “power interruption everyone is guaranteed to die, and that is what we have in the V-22,” said Rivolo, who also happens to be a premier art collector.

Both Trautman and Heckl steadfastly defended the V-22 operational performance, while acknowledging that parts reliability must improve.

After three years in Iraq, the USMC plans to deploy 12 V-22s — armed with a new all-aspect, belly-mounted gun — to the even harsher environment in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the $93 million MV-22 survived the first round of budget-cutting in the Pentagon earlier this year, but must hurdle the Quadrennial Defense Review next year.

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15 Responses to A “waste of time” hearing on V-22

  1. Obamanite 24 June, 2009 at 12:37 am #

    Perhaps the good colonel was referring to the fact that the V-22 has represented a colossal waste of time, money and lives. Hopefully some good sense will come out of the QDR and no more of this enormously expensive, enormously useless hunk of good-for-nothing metal will be ordered. One of the few sane things Cheney ever did was try to cancel this POS.

  2. SMSgt Mac 24 June, 2009 at 6:22 am #

    Thanks for the head’s up on the V-22′s alleged problem from an inability to ‘autorotate’. I suspect this is a mischaracterization of some tiltrotor-specific performance characteristic but you’ve given me the impetus to look more closely at the claim. As to parts not lasting as long as planned….there’s no ‘news’ there either. All parts have a designed reliability prediction. Flying the aircraft tells you where the predictions over or under estimated part life. For every one of the parts failing more frequently than predicted, you will get other parts lasting far longer than predicted. The ‘news’ comes in when there is no way to improve the situation and there’s no way forward – something I think the Marines would be pointing out by now. Until more data is in hand, I’ll call this just another V-22 hate fest, and the reporting of same just another calling of the Ignorami to prayers

  3. Choco Ball 24 June, 2009 at 8:35 am #

    It is just like saying “If F-35 doesn’t have autorotation capability, marines shouldn’t fly in it”…..Same non-sense…

    It’s not a chopper, it’s a plane!

  4. Kilo 24 June, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    It seems they are forgetting that the Osprey is a revolutionary aircraft which provides capabilities that helicopters can’t. Of course the Osprey is going to be expensive, of course it’s going to have problems to iron out. That’s the case with all new weapon systems. Why not cancel the F-35, F-22, Aegis missile defense, THAAD, EFV, JLTV, RATTLRS… hell why not scrap all our new weapons? With this mentality we’d be flinging rocks at our enemies…

  5. Paul 24 June, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    @Choco Ball

    Something tells me it also glides more like a brick than a plane when the drive train fails, especially if you can’t feather the props.

    Maybe they should install a ballistic parachute…

  6. Purba Negoro 24 June, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    Osprey= Total unnecessary rubbish.

    The Fairey Gyrodyne was far superior.

    Start retooling for a second generation, simple, reliable CHinook- it’s the only heavy lift helicopter that can fly in Afghanistan altitudes and it can outrun the Apache.

    Rather sad commentary on the rationale behind the US spending aka Carlisle Group and Bush-Reagan clique kickbacks

  7. Royce 24 June, 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    The V-22 is a very cool machine, but at $77 million flyaway it costs more than twice as much as a CH-47 and carries a lot less payload. The Osprey costs even more than a C-130J-30. The Marines will not be able to afford to buy them in the hundreds like they did the CH-46. It will likely end up a specialty platform, with the Marines turning to something else for more utilitarian missions.

    I don’t see anyone killing it in the short term, however. Not without someone sticking a giant wooden stake through the Marine mafia on Capital Hill.

  8. anonymous 24 June, 2009 at 7:08 pm #

    Not sure I understand the “autorotation” comment. Doesn’t everyone die in a helicopter when there is a “power interuption” also???

    It’s funny that the marine’s love it and these lawmakers hate it. The CH47 and the competing V22 fuselage are made in the same factory in Philadelphia, so I wonder what the politics behind all this is.

  9. Tim 24 June, 2009 at 10:42 pm #

    Rivilo’s 2003 confidential report about the V-22′s safety problems is on the net at http://www.g2mil.com
    “Why the V-22 is Unsafe”

  10. SMSgt Mac 25 June, 2009 at 4:31 am #

    Tim,
    Thanks for the link. I am generally loathe to visit Meyer’s one-man Crank-Tank, but this time it was important to the issue in front of us.

    The “armed with a recycled” list of grievances should have been bold-faced, and I would question the appropriateness of asserting ‘never fully refuted’, given from what seems to be available there isn’t sufficient evidence anything needed refuting. It LOOKS like the Marines waived certain original requirements because the design allows actions other than autorotation in most circumstances. This has the traits of a tradeoff the Marines were willing to make. So now it seems a pack of caviling weasels want to use a program decision as an excuse to cancel. Sounds like the weasels treated the only user, the only guy whose a** has been on the line in the tiltrotor in the room, poorly. Perhaps they feared the Colonel would spoil their show trial. Or perhaps it is just rampant Boxer Syndrome lose in the halls of Congress.

    Colonel Rivolo has an opinion. Fine. Colonel Heckl has an opinion formed from actually employing the V-22 in-theater. Better.

  11. tim 26 June, 2009 at 9:09 am #

    Dr. Rivolo had over a hundred combat missions in Vietnam. He has a Masters physics and a PhD in aerodynamics. He is considered one of the nation’s top aviation experts. Colonel Heckl has transport experience in Iraq, is trying to make General, and has no degree in any science, having graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy. He wouldn’t have made Major if he told the truth, and to appear before Congress requires someone who has proven himself without scruples.

  12. SMSgt Mac 26 June, 2009 at 8:19 pm #

    Tim,
    My thanks were actually genuine last time. GMIL is a hangout for crackpots but it had valuable information this time.
    My thanks are genuine this time as well.
    Thank you for combining a pitiful Appeal to Authority logical fallacy with an unsubstantiated character assassination via (at least) a DOUBLE Circumstantial Ad Hominem attack – all within one sputtering paragraph. The spittle fairly drips from your comment. Thank you also, for exposing your petty prejudices and manifest ignorance.
    Now…
    Put aside the fact that I did not and would not ever disparage Col Rivolo’s expertise. Col Rivolo’s academic background and experience is not unknown to me, it is just not relevant enough to deserve deference on this issue.
    The question is not what the aircraft’s aerodynamics are or what are the physics involved are either. The question is HOW, as a system (aerodynamics, propulsion, controls, aircrew, procedures), the V-22 system performance degradation is managed in an operational environment with the presence of failures? The V-22s are UNLIKE ANY OTHER operational aircraft. It is neither plane nor is it a helicopter. The only people qualified to comment on the V-22s abilities and military utility are therefore the people who KNOW it. The abilities and utility include the V-22s ability to manage component failure events and modes in flight. The people who know the V-22 are the people who develop, test, and employ it. Col Heckl is one of those people. Col Rivolo is not.
    BTW. I don’t get the attempted diminution of the MMA. You ARE aware that the MMA has an excellent engineering program and a fairly rigorous mathematics and physics curriculum for all graduates, right? RIGHT?

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