Marines’ V-22 Osprey returns from first combat deployment

The Marine Corps on Friday touted the success of the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft that recently returned from its first combat deployment to Iraq. A squadron of Ospreys successfully flew more than 2,500 missions during six months in support of Marines based in western Iraq's Anbar province.

The Marines initially feared that the Ospreys in Iraq would be tucked away and not used because of the aircraft's high profile, said Lt. Col. Paul Rock, who commanded the Osprey squadron in Iraq. But it turned out they were used in a wide range of missions across western Iraq, including raids, air assault missions, medevac operations and as scout aircraft.

The majority of Osprey missions were as a cargo aircraft, ferrying troops and supplies. That's the most common role of the CH-46 Sea Knight medium-lift helicopter, which the V-22 is replacing.

Lt. Gen. George Trautman, the Marines' deputy commandant for aviation, was effusive in his praise of the aircraft's performance in a meeting with reporters, saying it exceeded all expectations for reliability and performance. The Osprey required nine and a half hours of maintenance per flight hour, versus 24 hours for the CH-46, according to statistics provided by the Marines.

The flying conditions in Iraq's desert were surprisingly less harsh than those encountered during operational testing in the deserts of Arizona, Rock said. The squadron did not have to replace rotor blades or other parts as often as they had expected, although the region's fine dust and intense heat meant the aircraft's engines had to be replaced frequently. The Ospreys that have returned from Iraq are being stripped down and thoroughly examined for wear and tear on all parts of the aircraft, he said.

There were concerns about the Osprey's vulnerability to groundfire in Iraq, since insurgents there have shot down a number of U.S. helicopters. But no Osprey was damaged by groundfire. Rock said that since the Osprey flies much faster than the CH-46 and has maneuverability similar to a fixed-wing aircraft, its vulnerability to groundfire can't really be compared to that of conventional helicopters.

While the Osprey takes off and lands like a helicopter, it typically cruises at high speeds at around 9,000 feet. Helicopters fly much closer to the ground. Iraqi insurgents did shoot at Ospreys with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, but pilots never considered the groundfire a serious threat, Rock said.

The Osprey had a problem-plagued development phase, including four crashes that killed 30 people. Some analysts said the aircraft's combat deployment was premature, and that the Marine Corps had not solved all of the aircraft's reliability issues. For example, in a 2007 report, the Center for Defense Information said, "It is an aircraft waiting to increase its casualty list single-handedly if it is ever permitted to go to a combat theater."

Most of the critics are simply wrong, Trautman said, while acknowledging that it's too early to draw full conclusions about the V-22's performance. "This was a test, but it's not the final exam," he said. "We're on a journey to exploit a new and revolutionary technology."

Another Osprey squadron of 12 aircraft is currently flying in Iraq. Trautman said there are no plans to deploy the Osprey to Afghanistan, where 3,500 Marines are currently fighting in the southern parts of the country. But he said he is convinced the aircraft would perform better there than the CH-46 helicopters the Marines are using.

The Osprey was designed to rapidly fly Marines from ships based far off an enemy's shore and deposit them directly inland, bypassing defended beachheads. Critics have said that using it as a cargo hauler is a poor use of such a costly aircraft. Cargo operations, they argue, could be better preformed by larger fixed-wing aircraft such as the Air Force's C-130 transport plane. The Marines have struggled to justify the Osprey program's $18 billion cost for use as a cargo plane.

The Marines have taken delivery of 50 Ospreys and plan to buy them at a rate of 30 aircraft per year. The Air Force wants 50 Ospreys for its special operations troops, and the Navy wants 48 for search-and-rescue operations.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.