The V-22 Continues to Fail

     There is so much bad news to report about the V-22 program in 2003 that this article will cover basic issues; the "vortex ring" stall and cost issues will be addressed later this year.  This will be our sixth article about the V-22 program, which has become the largest weapons scandal in US military history.  The V-22 first flew in 1989 and remains "in development" despite four major crashes that killed 30 people.  The V-22 began production in 1999 in violation of the sacred "fly before you buy" standard, even after it failed testing.  A dozen are produced each year and placed in storage as testing and development continues.  The current promise is that Marines will begin using V-22s in the fleet in 2006, although development will continue until 2008.  If all problems are fixed, the first 80 V-22s will have to be rebuilt to the final "Block C" configuration after 2008.  

G2mil has published five articles over the past three years exposing the V-22 scandal:

The V-22 Fiasco - too dangerous for combat

MV-22 Lies - keeping a failed program funded

Keeping the V-22 Alive - the biggest scandal in US military history

V-22 Update - this scandal just grows and grows

Waiting for the Next V-22 Crash - soaring costs too

    In November 2000, the Pentagon's Operational Test and Evaluation office rated the V-22 capable of achieving planned missions, but recommended against full production and declared it "operationally unsuitable".  The evaluators noted the V-22 suffers a low mission capable rate and "failures related to the hydraulic system deserve special mention."  The complex hydraulic power system suffered 170 failures during the 804.5 hour operational evaluation. Two weeks after this report was released, another V-22 crashed while the Corps' best V-22 pilot attempted to land in good weather, killing four more Marines.  The Marine Corps determined that this crash was caused by hydraulic failure and software problems. 

     In May 2002, the V-22 was declared ready to resume flight tests after a 17-month stand down.  The main focus was to fix the hydraulic and software problems. "All of the things that were wrong with this airplane have been fixed," Marine Col. Dan Schultz, the V-22 program manager, said when the upgraded aircraft resumed testing.  Several more problems have emerged since then:

Hydraulic Lines Fail Again

      On March 10, 2003, the V-22 program announced that all test V-22s would be grounded for ten days to replace defective titanium hydraulic lines.  The V-22's 5000 psi hydraulic system has caused many problems in the past, spouting leaks 171 times during operational testing and was the primary cause of the last fatal crash.  Helicopters and aircraft use larger and heavier 3000psi systems with stainless steel lines.  While titanium is stronger than stainless steel, it is more brittle, more costly, and more difficult to manufacture.  Many people assumed the V-22 would adopt traditional hydraulic systems as part of its redesign, adding yet another thousand pounds of weight to an already overweight aircraft.  Instead, the program made fixing the leaky titanium lines its primary focus during the 17-month stand down, adding coatings and stronger fasteners.

     According to the V-22 program office, these new hydraulic lines leaked during a V-22 assembly test at Fort Worth on December 6, 2002.   They inspected lines and learned they were so thin in places they would only last 10% of their promised service life. This was truly embarrassing because they had selected the world's best manufacturer to produce this key item.  Choosing a new manufacturer to produce new lines would take months, and there was no guarantee anyone could make them to specs.  So they kept word of the defective titanium lines secret until new ones were delivered in March 2003 from two new contractors.  It is unclear why V-22s were not grounded when this safety problem was uncovered on December 6th.

      Luckily, no V-22 crashed during this time.  After a ten day stand down to replace the 20 flight critical lines in the V-22s undergoing testing, Ward Carroll, the V-22 Public Affairs official, explained that replacing all the defective lines, like those that control the ramp and doors, would be too expensive.  Only the 20 critical lines were replaced, while the other 780 defective lines remain in each V-22. So current plans are to deliver the first 60 V-22s with known defective hydraulic lines to the Marines and let them replace them as they begin to leak.

     On August 6th, 2003, even one of the newly replaced titanium hydraulic lines sprung a leak after just a few hours of use during a pilot training flight.  The back up system worked and the V-22 made a safe emergency landing.  The program immediately announced there would be an investigation into the cause, but stated that it was not caused by chaffing or defective lines.  Of course they didn't know the cause, but would never admit the problem had still not been fixed.  The preliminary report was that one of the fasteners had worked itself loose because of normal vibration, which caused a line to leak.  This is not surprising since lighter titanium hydraulic lines with fluid at 5000psi are subject to much greater forces than heavier 3000psi stainless steel lines used by all other aircraft.  

     Last March, Philip Coyle, a former undersecretary of defense who ran the Pentagon's weapons testing programs throughout the 1990s said: "It's not a question of whether they will leak, but when they will leak."  After this emergency landing, he told "Aerospace Daily":  "How is it after 2.5 years of work here that we're still having this problem? That, I think, is the most important question. What does it say about the developmental work?"

V-22 to be Redesigned with "Wet Wing" Fuel Tanks

     After all the changes and added weight over the years, the V-22 has become heavier toward the rear.  As a result, it flies with its nose about 7-13 degrees up, reducing its range.  Since it cannot reach the range promised, the program has decided to redesign the fuel system and add fuel tanks inside the wings to shift some weight forward.  This a major, expensive redesign which will take years and affect the performance of an aircraft which is about to complete flight testing. 

      All this work will be done in hopes of sustaining the myth that V-22s will fly across the Atlantic Ocean.  This is reflected in the requirement for a range of 2100 nautical miles in eight hours with one aerial refuel, but no cargo. This is impractical for several reasons.  First, it assumes that scarce tankers are available during a crisis which will fly 2000 mile missions to ocean midpoints to refuel V-22s.  Second, the V-22 has just two engines and a much higher mean time between aborts than fixed-wing aircraft. Therefore, a V-22 squadron flying across an ocean can expect to lose one aircraft.  A V-22 can fly on one engine, but this reduces range, so unless a tanker appears in mid-ocean during an engine-out emergency, a V-22 must ditch at sea.  This is why a V-22 has never flown overseas to demonstrate "self deploy" at anytime during its 14 years of testing, and why there are no plans to demonstrate this in the coming years.

     Third, the Department of Defense published a study in 2002: V-22 Osprey: High Altitude Flights (pdf) which exposes this fallacy. The V-22 must fly at 18,000 feet to achieve promised ranges, however, the V-22 is unpressurized, partially heated, and pilots and crew must wear oxygen masks above 10,000 feet.  V-22 testing showed that cabin temperature at 18,000 feet averaged -10C (or 14 degrees Fahrenheit) even with the heater at full power. The medical officer and author of this report, Colonel Ed Wakayama, revealed that flying the V-22 over 10,000 feet is unhealthful, painful, so dangerous that it is prohibited by current military regulations.  It may be possible to add a pressurization system and larger heater to the V-22, but that would add much weight and use up cabin space.  This official report should have ended discussion of V-22 self-deploy missions, however, the lies continue despite this official rebuke. 

V-22 Performance Claims are Misleading

     Since there are no oxygen systems for passengers and little room for artic clothing, V-22s must remain below 10,000 feet.  Flying this low will limit their advertised range and not allow them to fly above medium-range anti-aircraft systems like they claim.  This limit also reveals misleading claims about the V-22's speed. The V-22 flies most efficiently at 18,500 feet where the air is half as dense. This is the altitude where V-22 achieves its best cruising speed of 240 knots, which is about 80% faster than helicopters.  It is unclear if this was achieved at 18,500 feet with pilots bundled up in artic gear and flying with oxygen masks and no crew chiefs, no passengers, no gun, no hoist, and the minimum fuel.  A recent US Air Force funded study revealed that the cruising speed of a V-22 flying a typical helicopter mission at 300 feet above sea level has a cruise speed of 185 knots, just 20% faster than helicopters at that altitude.

      If advertised performance data is used when calculating the V-22's speed and range, Marines in the fleet will be disappointed since V-22s will have to remain below 10,000 feet.  What the V-22 program must reveal is the practical speed and range of a fully equipped V-22 (with a gun, hoist, and crew chiefs) for a combat mission with troops flying at 300 feet with an appropriate amount of fuel.  Deception is common in the V-22 program. They assert that a V-22 lifted a 9300 lb. replica of the Corps' future howitzer, but close reading of their news release reveals that it just hovered 4.5 feet off the ground rather than moving it 50 miles as required. When American troops were sent to Afghanistan, V-22 advocates claimed it would be superior in high mountains since it can fly up to 26,000 feet while helicopters are limited to 10,000 feet.  A V-22 can fly that high but it cannot land or take off on high mountains since its maximum hover altitude is 7,000 feet, and that's with no payload.  

     Some people may doubt that senior Marines allow such deception, yet the former head of Marine Aviation, General Fred McCorkle, admitted to test cheating during a July 27, 2000 news conference"In fact, I'm really happy that you asked that question, because this is the KPPs, the key performance parameters, for the MV-22. And for you guys, who have sat in here and looked at a lot of KPPs for a lot of airplanes -- and I remember when we did the AV-8, and we were putting wax on the wings of it to try to make it -- make the air speed."

     The most basic lie is the V-22's usable cabin space.  In 2001, G2mil noted the V-22 had a smaller internal cabin than the CH-46.  Using the specs from the NAVAIR website, the article noted: "The V-22s interior cabin dimensions are (H-5.5ft W-5.7ft L-20.8ft ) which is smaller than the CH-46E (H-6ft W-6ft L-24.2 ft).  With a height of only 5.5ft, the V-22s will have many hunched-back crew chiefs and a lot of passenger head banging." This criticism was noted because NAVAIR revamped its website a few months later and the V-22 cabin dimensions miraculously expanded to match the CH-46!  The problem with lies is that some people aren't informed and allow the truth to appear on the Internet. This detailed Marine Corps study (pdf) confirms the V-22s true cabin dimensions, and the problems with the V-22's weak composite floor.

  CH-46 V-22 Lie USMC Study
Length 24.17 ft 24.17 ft. 20.8 ft.
Width 6.0 ft 5.92 ft. 5.66 ft.
Height 6.0 ft. 6.0 ft. 5.52 ft.
Cabin Floor 145 sq. ft. 143 sq. ft. 118 sq. ft.
Cabin Volume 870 cu. ft. 856 sq. ft. 650 cu. ft.

     Perhaps the V-22 team can claim they counted the cockpit area as part of the internal length, but there is no excuse for the height and width.  This chart shows the usable cabin space for the V-22 is 25% smaller than the CH-46, yet they insist a V-22 can carry more combat troops.

Software Still Buggy  

     In March 2003, NAVAIR's V-22 spokesman, Ward Carroll, slipped up and gave an honest answer.  He told "Inside the Navy" that the V-22's "JASS flight software tested last week has reliability problems and tends to malfunction. There are a whole host of issues with JASS".  Not only is the #1 aerospace giant, Boeing, profiting from the V-22, but the #2 aerospace giant is heavily involved as well.  It turns out, Lockheed-Martin is developing the flight control software for the V-22 through a subsidiary.

V-22 Decision Makers Succeed

     Despite serious problems with the V-22, the Pentagon's Chief of Testing, Pete Aldridge, reviewed the program and on May 23, 2003 announced the V-22 was testing well and that increased production should be considered.  He retired the next day and became a board member for Lockheed-Martin where he earns $75,000 a year to attend meetings, plus $75,000 in stock options.  Aldridge joins Norman Augustine, who became a Lockheed Martin board member shortly after completing work as part of an independent panel which reviewed the V-22 program after two deadly crashes in 2000.  This four man "Blue Ribbon Panel" concluded the V-22 could be fixed and production should continue.  Mr. Augustine made tens of millions of dollars in 2001 cashing in Lockheed Martin stock options.  After completing work as head of the Blue Ribbon Panel, retired Marine General John Dailey became an outside director for Smiths Aerospace.  A few months later, Smiths won a major contract for V-22 components from Boeing, the maker of the V-22.  

     While the V-22 was considered for cancellation in 2001, there was heavy political lobbying to save it.  The Boeing effort was led by General Richard Hearny, the former head of Marine Aviation, who retired in 1996 and is Vice President for business development at Boeing. The lobby effort mccorklefor Boeing's partner, Bell Helicopter, was led by its Vice President for government relations, General Terrence R. Dake, who retired from the Marines in 2000 after heading Marine Aviation. The effort at Headquarters Marine Corps was led by the head of Marine Aviation, General Fred McCorkle (left). Soon after retiring from the Marines in  October 2001, McCorkle joined the board of directors and as a senior advisor for GKN Aerospace Services (V-22 fuel tanks).  He also serves on the Rolls-Royce North America board of directors (V-22 engines), and is a member of the board of directors of Lord Corporation (V-22 components).  In addition, he has served as a consultant for Boeing Aerospace (V-22 maker) and Optical Air Data Systems (V-22 low airspeed indicator).

     While these Generals receive an $8000 a month retirement check from the Marines, a tradition has emerged in which the head of Marine Aviation is financially rewarded after retirement for not rocking the boat.  Questioning the progress of the V-22 is difficult since the current head of Marine Aviation must challenge his former bosses working for defense contractors.  This was revealed during a December 2000 news conference when a reporter asked General McCorkle if the Corps might abandon the V-22.  McCorkle replied: "that would be something above my pay grade, quite frankly."  At that time, McCorkle was a three-star General and head of Marine Aviation, yet he considered the future of Marine Aviation to be in the hands of others.  McCorkle saw himself as a just a salesman whose loyalty to the V-22 program would make him a wealthy executive.

The V-22 rated too dangerous for Washington DC VIPs

     The dangers of the V-22 are no secret in Washington DC.  The fleet of Presidential helicopters is aging, and replacements are needed by 2012.  According to a June 16, 2003 article in the Washington Post:  "The Marine Corps has asked Boeing Co. to enter the competition with its V-22 Osprey, which suffered two high-profile crashes in 2000, killing 23 Marines. But a senior Navy official said the aircraft, which could become operational as soon as 2006, may not be mature enough."

      Mature enough?  What happened is the Marine helicopter development and test squadron at Quantico, HMX-1, also provides White House helicopter support.  HMX-1 pilots, who are not part of the Bell-Boeing V-22 test team, flew the V-22 several times and gave it low marks, so it was dropped as a candidate to shuttle White House VIPs.  As a result, the angry Bell-Boeing test team had the Marines form "VMX-22" at MCAS New River and staffed it with "team" members to rubberstamp their results.  

     With its greater speed, the V-22 should be ideal for quickly moving hot shots around the East Coast without the need to take a helicopter hop to Andrews AFB to board an airplane. Boeing touts the tiltrotor as the ideal executive transport aircraft, although no airline has expressed an interest.  Washington insiders also know the V-22 is unsafe, yet are unwilling to battle the political forces which profit off this racket and terminate the program.  White House staffers determined the V-22 is safe enough for Marines to fly into tough combat zones, but not safe enough for Washington VIPs to land at clean helo pads.

     The US Air Force's Air Combat Command is looking for the ideal Combat Search and Rescue aircraft to replace its aging fleet of HH-60 Pave Hawks.  Speed and range are critical for these 132 medium-lift aircraft the Air Force plans to buy.  However, the Air Force refuses to consider the V-22 for this role.  It seems Air Force Generals have determined the V-22 is flawed.  The Air Force remains a minor player in the V-22 program since the Special Operations Command liked the idea of 50 CV-22s to replace their aging MH-53J Pave Lows.  However, Special Ops operators have given the CV-22 low marks.  The primary complaint is that the cabin of CV-22 is much smaller than the MH-53J, so much of their equipment will not fit inside.  However, the Special Operations Command does not want to upset political supporters by backing out of the CV-22 in favor of new MH-53Ks, preferring to wait until it fails again.  The Navy backed out of plans for 48 HV-22s two years ago in favor of the MH-60S, although the V-22 program ignores this reality.  The MH-60S costs one-quarter of a V-22, weighs one-third as much, yet can lift almost the same amount of cargo.

Communications Upgrade Needed

     Three months after Pete Aldridge said the V-22 was testing well, the Pentagon decided not to increase production of V-22s.

Inside the Navy, August 4, 2003:

Wynne makes decision
Acting Pentagon acquisition czar Michael Wynne has decided to curtail production of the V-22 Osprey over the next few years so that $231 million can be reallocated to buy more communications gear for the aircraft, Inside the Navy has learned.

      So now there is a major problem with communications gear.  The V-22 design is so old that its communications system is outdated and must be replaced in the 60 V-22s already built, along with all their hydraulic lines, and then there's adding fuel tanks to the wings.

Ditching the Requirement for an Armed V-22

     Since 91% of transport combat losses occur in a landing zone, transports have a "door gunner" on each side who shoot a rapid-fire machine gun at enemy positions below to "suppress" enemy fires.  When several helicopters land in formation, the volume of fire pouring down is impressive.  However, the V-22 will have no door gunners because the wing and engine block half their field of fire.  No one wants a door gunner attempting to shoot around a massive rotor and wing sticking out the side of an aircraft; the rotor wash would affect his accuracy anyway. Without a defensive gun, the V-22s will be completely dependent on Cobra attack helicopter escorts, so they will have to fly as slow as helicopters and negate their only advantage.

     The V-22 program has dodged this issue, claiming a gun was never "funded". The original explanation was that it could be added later in the program.  In the 1990s, they convinced Marine Corps leaders that guns could make the pilot too aggressive, thus endangering his passengers.  When General Jones became Commandant in 1999, he insisted the V-22 must have a gun to provide suppressive fire.  As a result, Jones was told a rapid fire GAU-19 .50 caliber machine gun would be chin mounted (pdf) on a turret under the nose and fired by the co-pilot.  This is not a simple task since the 608lbs GAU-19 with several hundred rounds of ammunition and the electric pivoting nose chin will take a lot of space under the crowded cockpit.  The extra of weight and bulbous chin will also reduce speed and performance.  

     The 17-month delay while the V-22 was grounded for a redesign was the ideal time to add the gun into the test aircraft.  This is important because the gun's weight and vibration while firing will affect aircraft performance.  Since the GAU-19 is a proven gun, there was no reason to delay.  However, testing resumed in May 2002 without the GAU-19.  In fact, the plan was to delay adding the gun until the very end of testing in 2008.  In May 2002, G2mil criticized the gun game, which had some effect:

Inside the Navy, September 30, 2002

Osprey to get firepower sooner

     In the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, special forces aboard Marine Corps helicopters often had to shoot at al Qaeda and Taliban fighters on the ground as the helicopters exited "hot zones." That realization is stirring the Marines to rethink, accelerate and expand long-deferred plans to arm V-22 Osprey tiltrotors with defensive weapons.

    "One of the things we've been asked to look at from headquarters is to put an interim gun in sooner," Marine Corps Col. Dan Schultz, the Osprey program manger, told Inside the Navy in a brief interview last week. Unlike previous plans to mount a three-barreled .50 caliber turreted machine gun under the front of each Osprey, the interim gun would go in the rear, near the ramp that opens to let troops enter and exit. In addition to the new ramp gun effort, the program has been directed to study putting guns on both sides of the aircraft's cabin.

      The odd idea of a gun mounted on the rear ramp impedes personnel egress and doesn't allow a vehicle to easily drive off.  Moreover, a formation of V-22s approaching a landing zone can provide no suppressive fires if all guns are pointed to the rear.  Finally, landing with an open ramp at unimproved sites causes the cabin to fill with dirt and dust as the side-by-side rotors throw debris toward the fuselage.  This is why the V-22's gun requirement calls for a bag to catch spent shell casings to prevent the heavy rotor downwash from the wing tip rotors from throwing them against the fuselage.CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti - Sgt. Richard A. Dorsett, HMH-461 aviation ordnanceman , demonstrates the operational abilities of the Ramp Mounted Weapon System (RMWS) here.  The RMWS provides CH-53 Super Stallion Helicopters with a much needed defensive system providing 180 degrees field of fire from the rear of the aircraft.   Photo by: Cpl. Eric C. Ely

     After General Jones left office last June, the Bell-Boeing team announced a ploy to ditch the gun requirement.  They said the proven GAU-19 was not right for the V-22, and chose Crane Surface Warfare Center to develop a new .50 caliber gun, which will take years.  So now when Marines ask why the gun is missing, the V-22 team can blame delays at Crane.  They hope no one will discover that the Marines have just adopted a new ramp mounted .50 cal weapons system for its CH-53Es. (right).  So why can't the V-22 program use this as an interim .50 cal gun? 

      The V-22 program ditched the gun because the aircraft is already overweight and a 1000lbs of gun, mount, and ammo will make performance even worse, especially if mounted on the rear of the aircraft, making it even more aft heavy.  Second, the lightweight composite ramp may crack from the gun recoil while a 200lb Marine hangs on, and rapid vehicle offload will be impossible.  Actually, the Marines have given up plans to develop an attack vehicle that fits inside the V-22 after learning the composite floor and ramp are too weak.  They rejected the Bell-Boeing idea of using "load spacers" to spread the wheel pressure, which also requires that Marines assemble spacers on the ramp in a landing zone. 

       Composite airframes became an issue when the US Air Force selected the Boeing 767 as its future air refueling tanker.  Aviation experts asked why the newer and more efficient 777 was not selected.  The Air Force determined that the 777's composite airframe was not strong enough for cargo, and chose the older aluminum 767 design.  The V-22 program also revealed that lightweight composite airframes vibrate much more, which explains why V-22 hydraulic lines often come loose.  On August 17, 2003 an access door on the right-hand nacelle of the first newly configured Osprey broke off while in flight, damaging a vertical stabilizer and prompting a precautionary landing in Arkansas.  Mostly likely, V-22 vibrations caused latches to work themselves loose, just like a hydraulic line fastener two weeks earlier.

      If a safe V-22 is ever developed, it will fly into combat completely unarmed because the V-22 program has ditched the gun requirement.  This will not be a problem according to program manager Dan Shultz: "We are not flying into zones where they are shooting at us," Schultz told Helicopter News about the V-22's concept of operations.  He did not explain the crystal ball technology which will enable Marines to know exactly where all enemy forces are located so hot landing zones can be avoided.  This must concern the US Air Force which plans to send CV-22s on long-range special operations and rescue missions without armed attack helicopter escorts.

The V-22's small cabin windows

      A frequent complaint from V-22 crews is poor visibility outside the cabin, which causes many passengers to become airsick.  The V-22 was built with small windows to compensate for its lightweight composite airframe.  In addition, it has no "bubble window" on each side to provide a clear view since that causes drag and reduces top speed.

     As a result, crew chiefs cannot assist with search and rescue observation nor help identify anti-aircraft threats.  The V-22 has made crew chiefs feel worthless as they press against small, flat windows trying to see below.  Passengers have little situational awareness as they approach a landing zone and many vomit from airsickness.  This is unpleasant in the V-22 since it is narrower than the CH-46E (right) and troops sit so close that crew chiefs are unable to move between them. 

The V-22 cannot safely land vertically with one-engine out

     If any helicopter loses all engine power, its large rotors spin rapidly as it descends, then the pilot can "flare" to land safely. This is called "autorotation".  After years of evasion, the V-22 program now admits the V-22 rotors are too small for autorotation to allow a safe vertical landing should both engines fail.  They point out that losing both engines would be extremely rare, so they claim autorotation is not an issue. 

      However, it will be an issue in combat where enemy fire may damage both engines.  In addition, if enemy fire damages either gearbox or rotor on a V-22, its side-by-side rotor design will cause the aircraft to immediately snap roll with no chance of recovery.  If a V-22 rotor hits a large object on the ground or a ship while landing, it will shatter and the engine will drop while the other engine flips the V-22 over onto its backside.  These are not problems for helicopters whose rotors are mounted on their fuselage.  At least they will hit the ground upright on their sturdy landing gear where they wanted to land.  A cart wheeling V-22 will not only destroy itself and passengers, but nearby aircraft and Marines on the ground, or on crowded ships. 

      During peacetime, losing power to one engine is not uncommon.  If this occurs in a loaded helicopter, most lack the power to stay airborne and begin a controlled descent.  Helicopters can land safely at half power if the pilot descends rapidly enough to flare before landing, just like with autorotation.  But what happens to a loaded V-22 which loses one engine while its rotors are upright?  While the segmented cross-shaft should ensure power to both rotors, its rotors cannot allow the V-22 to flare, so it will hit the ground very hard. 

      This is a key issue, yet the program has refused to test a one-engine out vertical landing of a loaded V-22.  They say a V-22 can convert to the airplane mode and land safely at an airfield with a rolling landing with just one engine.  However, a V-22 with rotors up may be too close to the ground to allow conversion to the airplane mode as it falls.  This also assumes that a friendly airfield is in range, which is rarely the case while operating from ships at sea.  

     During sea trials last year, all the oil in one engine leaked out so it shut down. This happened on the deck of a ship, so an unplanned one-engine out test did not occur.  However, one V-22 team member admitted to "Aviation Week" that a one-engine vertical landing would damage a V-22, although the crew should escape serious injury.  Since engine failures are not unusual, the Marines can expect to have a few $100 million V-22s suffer serious damage from hard emergency landings each year.

Comparing Development with the F-14A

    The full-time V-22 public relations team dug up a 30-year old aircraft program which also suffered four crashes during development -- the F-14A "Tomcat" (below).  Now they proudly announce this proves that the four V-22 crashes are not unusual.  However, they ignore the fact the F-14 was rushed into service for the Vietnam war.  The first F-14 flew on December 21, 1970 while Grumman cut corners to finish testing.  As an incentive for the contractor to fulfill the requirements, the Navy put some penalties on the project if Grumman failed some of the contract guarantees:

  • Empty Weight: $440,000 for each 100 lbs overweight
  • Acceleration: $440,000 for each second slow
  • Escort Radius: $1 million for each 10 nautical miles short
  • Approach Speed: $1.056 million for each knot fast
  • Maintainability: $450,000 for each extra maintenance man-hour per flight hour
  • Delivery to Navy Board of Inspection and Survey: $5,000 for each day late

      Grumman succeeded in delivering the F-14 on time in June 1972, just 16 months after its first flight   It was on cost and an even better fighter than they contracted for!  Moreover, the test routine for a fighter aircraft is much more grueling than a transport; one crash was during a spin test.  In addition, fighters have ejection seats, so only one person died during the four F-14A crashes as the aircraft was rushed through testing.

     In contrast, the V-22 first flew in 1989, and is still encountering numerous major problems 14 years later.  The F-14A was ready in 16 MONTHS!   It has been 15 months since the V-22 resumed testing in May 2002 and little has been accomplished.  It doesn't have gun and a hoist has still never been tested.  Only one V-22 flew out for shipboard testing and broke down.  There has been no attempt to "self-deploy" the V-22 overseas, and the requirement to pick up a five-ton howitzer and fly it 50 miles is never discussed.  High rate of descent testing was only done at high altitude and with no payload, and the second half of planned testing was canceled.

      If the Navy had put penalties on contract guarantees on the V-22, the program would have ended years ago.  Older Marines know their CH-46 had many problems during its first year in Vietnam.  The first flight of the CH-46 was in August 1962 and the first were delivered to the Marines in 1964 and rushed to Vietnam.  By 1968, the Sea Knight had flown 75,000 hours on 180,000 missions, including 8,700 missions rescuing wounded Marines, and had carried 500,000 troops.  If it had taken 14 years to "fix" the CH-46, it would still have been in development in 1976.  Now the V-22 program says it should finish in 2008; 19 years after its first flight.  Meanwhile, testing reveals more problems each month that must be fixed.

     The V-22 cannot be fixed because of its a flawed side-by-side rotor design.  A tilt-wing with an aluminum airframe and 3000 psi stainless steel hydraulic systems would be better, although its payload would be near zero.  Boeing learned tilt-rotor is a bad idea and has now proposed a short take-off tilt-wing "Super Frog", which looks promising.  Most Marines familiar with the tilt-rotor with a composite airframe and 5000 psi titanium hydraulics recognize the V-22 is a turkey.  Even the editor of the conservative "Marine Corps Gazette" took a rare swipe at the Corps' #1 program in his February 2003 editorial:

"At the time of my retirement in 1996, the MV–22 Osprey program was billed as the saviour for the Marine Corps. It would replace the aging Vietnam-era CH–46 helicopter and be our enabler for all the newly published concepts, such as . . . From the Sea and . . . Forward From the Sea. It has been almost 7 years since my retirement, and the Osprey, whose conceptual drawing can be viewed on the cover of the Marine Corps Gazette, Feb '67, is still billed as our future enabler. Our concepts have moved forward. In the ensuing years we have embraced operational maneuver from the sea, ship-to-objective maneuver, and expeditionary maneuver warfare. And if we are at war, we will go with CH–46s for medium lift and CH–53Es for heavy lift, just as we have for decades."

And read this June 24, 2002 letter in the Marine Corps Times by retired Marine Colonel Bill Hammerle:

Osprey is no revolution

"Put me down as a “no” vote on the MV-22 Osprey [“Make or break time,” June 10]. The bottom line is that we will be paying $68 million apiece for the CH-46 Sea Knight replacement. That is an unaffordable cost for 1980s technology.

The argument by Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group (who are they?) that helicopter alternatives are a return to 1950s technology is only one of the tired talking points meant to kill opposition to this aircraft. Other talking points — “a revolutionary way to fly,” “any alternatives just don’t cut the mustard” and “V-22 is the only alternative that meets the requirements” —ring hollow.

The requirement ain’t revolution, baby. It is dirty, sweaty, close-in combat support and all that comes with it. After all of these years, to continue to hold to the position that the MV-22 is so revolutionary that we simply must have it is reaching the point of silliness. There will always be something newer, sleeker and more capable in the pipeline. The problem is not the lack of alternatives. The problem is that we have been chasing this self-fulfilling prophecy for so long with our heads buried in the sand that we haven’t looked for alternatives.

In 1988, when I was the senior Marine at the Air Force Command and Staff College, my students debated the merits of the Osprey, because fleet introduction was imminent and the tired CH-46 was going to be replaced. In 1992, as the commanding officer of HMT-204, I received regular briefings from two of my pilots assigned to work on the Osprey training syllabus. The arrival of the V-22 was imminent and the tired CH-46 finally was going to be replaced. In 1996, when I was the CO of Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, Calif., we also were planning for the imminent transition of our tired 46 squadrons into the V-22.

Fast forward to 2002. The arrival of the V-22 is imminent and the tired CH-46 finally is being replaced. But now we have fixed all the problems — at least until the next accident.

The one certainty in all of this is that there will be more accidents. Unfortunately, that is the hazardous reality of this demanding occupation.

Gosh, if only there was an alternative."

      Actually, today's production V-22s cost over $100 million each, and that does not include R&D costs, and does not include production start-up costs that were reflected in the first few low-rate initial  production aircraft. Colonel Hammerle wrote that letter over a year ago, and the V-22 continues to fail. So far this year they've replaced some defective hydraulic lines, admitted numerous software problems remain, admitted a redesign is needed to put fuel tanks in the wings, ditched the requirement for a gun, and now want $243 million to improve aircraft communications.  The only advancement was development of a new special paint for the V-22, which costs $7000 a gallon.  

      Luckily, at least one high-level Pentagon official has taken note of the V-22 folly.  Retired Vice Admiral Arthur Cebrowski, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation, said in a July 31, 2003 statement to Marine Corps Times“When you consider how old that program is, decisions were being made when John Lehman was secretary of the Navy in the first Reagan administration. Think of all the technologies that have happened since that program was begun.  Much of that design we would never do today if we had to do it all over again. So why would you want to populate the entire force with that?”

                                              Carlton Meyer



The V-22 Continues to Fail 

The September article on the V-22 was very well done, timely, and covered most of the bases.  I would offer a comment that the nose gun was most likely negated by the lack of pitch authority in the hover mode, since the cg problem therein couldn't be satisfied by merely moving some other things aft.

The deployability of the V-22 is diminished substantially by the fact that it won't stuff into either a C-5 or C-17.  In my view that outweighs the ferry range argument advanced by the proponents.  It is useful to note that the EH-101, which was built to satisfy the Marine requirement for 24 combat Marines taken to a 200 n.m. radius, does "stuff" into those airlifters.  It is also useful to note that the EH-101's mission gross weight is less than the empty weight of the V-22.  That says something about the efficiency of a tilt rotor, and the price to be paid for 250 knots.

Your discussion of the family tree of retired aviation generals will help illuminate a theme I've been suggesting to folks in Washington.  During my three tours at HQ, such a departure from propriety would have been unimaginable.

                                                                                                     A retired Marine Corps Aviator

V-22 Unsafe

After being employed at Boeing for over ten years and having spent years in the Air Force I can say without a doubt that the V-22 is not safe. I was involved in the structural testing of this machine and those test were flawed. The data is incorrect and a vast majority of the mechanics that assisted the engineers were not qualified to set-up the test jigs for any evaluations. I have documents that prove this.

                                                                                                            Name Withheld

Ed: There is a DoD IG investigation underway concerning negative test results which were withheld from senior DoD officials in 2000.  Recent V-22 landing as "unimproved" sites at Yuma AZ showed the V-22 was unsuitable for such missions.  The V-22s rotors pelted the fuselage with rocks and broke windows as the cabin filled with sand and dust.  The program then decided that only grassy areas would be used for unimproved site testing.

Looting Amarillo 

I live in Amarillo, Texas, where the V-22 is assembled. I agree completely with your article and overview, but you cannot imagine the hidden scandal that is here in Texas. Our city, like many other has an Economic Development Corporation, designed to attract business and hopefully to convince companies to relocate to Amarillo. What the AEDC (Amarillo Economic Development Corporation) did to land the Bell program is sadly amazing.

   With pressure from Senators, Congressional reps and Military influence, the AEDC gave Bell Helicopter one of the most one sided, front loaded grants that as ever been conceived. And at a time-1997-before the V-22 program was even fully funded or fully awarded. Basically, Bell was given the land, buildings and ramp area at our Rick Husband International Airport complex. Included was a free utility grant and free building maintenance for at least ten years. All with the hope that Bell would bring and support around 2000 jobs by 2006. There are currently about 300 employees. In all the AEDC grant to Bell amounts to around 80 million dollars over ten years. All to a program flawed and doubtful at best. Here locally the AEDC has a "magic cups and ball" scheme when anyone tries to get all the figures. I assure you if you looked into this side of the V-22 affair, you would uncover more of the sad, deceitful events surround this entire military blunder. There is a much deeper story here and I hope someone from the outside would investigate. Thank you for your piece and Best of Luck to you.


We Need the V-22

I figure you have some biased viewpoint in your  scathing articles about the V-22. I guarantee you this I could find and report just as many articles supporting the V-22 as you have condemning it. Are you some individual who lost a job or contract as a result of the program going forward ? Any new technology is going to experience some failures and setbacks. I could care less about how strongly you feel that the program is flawed and corrupted. We need this technology. You probably are one of the ones who would ground the space shuttle because of the impending doom it will experience. If we adopt this sort of philosophy about the future and development then we might as well live back into the stone age. I as a former Marine and proud American I feel that any risk involved to further our national security and in turn propel us into the future is well the price we have to pay. 

                                                                                                                Bill Martin

The V-22 is Junk

I currently work on the "junk" we call the Osprey.  I agree with the article I just read of yours.  I have some input that you left out.  First , a good friend was onboard the ship USS Iwo Jima and saw the inept ability of our "Engineers".  We had problems with a component being affected by a shipboard Radar,  what did they do to fix the problem?  They had him wrap it in Aluminum foil, and wire mesh.  Now back here on shore what have they done to correct the problem after 9 months.  Nothing.  

    2nd; onboard a ship which was designed for the Osprey when in the Hangar Maintenance  would be very difficult. It cannot fully rotate up and spread its blades in the hangar.  It has to be placed perfectly in place so that one side can be manually rotated up.  This would cause the rest of the hangar space to be wasted around it. Only one Osprey can need to be in the up position at a time in the Hangar since it only has one special spot to do the conversion up.

    3rd;  While out on the Boat the A/C would not accept boat power they had to have a portable power cart to have electrical power.  This is because the Osprey on the boat is so sensitive that it will not accept power above like 116VAC.  the boat had like 117.9VAC any other A/C that I have worked on would accept this power and all the other Helos onboard had no problem with it.

    4th;  the Fuel System is poorly designed.  If I was on any other A/C and needed to transfer fuel from one tank to another I push a fuel transfer button and away we go.  On the Osprey in the infinite wisdom of our "engineers"  does not have a fuel system like that.  If I have too much fuel in one of my sponsons tanks I have to defuel and refuel and select tanks on and off to get the desired levels.  That is a costly evolution.  If I need to work in a fuel cell instead of transferring fuel from one tank to another I must defuel completely.  

     5th;  the maintainers on the floor are handcuffed so bad that engineers do all the troubleshooting from a desk and do not allow the actual worker to use his ability to think on his own.  It is a very inefficient way to work.  It also causes a high turnover rate, it keeps moral low and keeps the experience level down.

      There are many more things I could go on about but I will stop here.  Please do not in any way use anything that might identify me in any way. 

Ed:  Even though the V-22 program is unclassified, everyone working on the program has been told they will be fired or punished should they leak any negative information.  One V-22 manager e-mailed me that my article was full of errors.  I asked him to identify them so I could post a correction.  He then claimed he was unable to discuss the program.

V-22 Scandal Homepage