Thursday, August 09, 2007

The V-22 as Lemon Template Rolls on

Over at Defensetech, most commenters are weighing in against the prospects and performance of the V-22. What do the people who fly it say? From the 'friendly' NYT in April:

The Marines say the V-22 will prove the critics wrong.

“Ask all the naysayers how many hours they have flown,” said Colonel Mulhern, the V-22 program manger.

“They are just sitting around a desk and crunching numbers,” he added.

“Go talk to the Marines. The V-22 has come of age. The first marine [sic] it saves makes it worth what we paid for it. And I have real confidence that the V-22 will do it.”

Fans include General Castellaw, a Vietnam helicopter pilot, who has flown the V-22.

“I came in at a high altitude and then did a tactical ingress,” said General Castellaw. “Yankin’ and bankin’ to avoid simulated fire, came in low, streaked into the zone. The aircraft is nimble, agile. You can yank and bank with the best of them.

“I believe absolutely that this is the most survivable craft for the Marine Corps’ most precious assets,” he added. “ If I did not believe that, I would not deploy it. I have absolute faith in the craft to do the mission.”

Godspeed Thunderchickens!

the original post now continues below with slightly updated disclosure.......

In DFW, we have an aerospace 'writer' named Bob Cox who is widely reviled by many of us in the local aerospace community as a complete shill for the Fort Woth Startlegram (Star Telegram) editorial meme-o'-the-day. I have never read ANYTHING this guy has written that fails to get at least one salient point either completely wrong or warped beyond recognition . I just found out today that he has a blog (hat tip Defensetech) , and today's piece doesn't disappoint in providing an example of the kind of vacuous articles he is locally infamous for.

Let us Fisk

Bob begins by laying down the Startlegram’s tried-and-true message template of “The V-22 is a lemon”:
One of the key selling points of the V-22 Osprey, one that is repeated over and over by the Marines and the Bell Helicopter-Boeing contractor team, is that the aircraft can self deploy to combat. In other words, fly high and long distances to get from one base to a combat zone - say from the U.S. to Iraq - where it can there [sic] be put into tactical use on the battlefields.
Well, for their first combat deployment with the V-22 to Iraq next month
the Marines will be going by ship, Navy Times is reporting.
First off, just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something now does it? As a second point Bob, let us remind you that V-22s are designed and qualified for ship-based operations as an integral part of their primary Concept of Operation (CONOPS). Are you put out that the Marines thought it more important to deploy via ship with their support equipment than fly half-way around the world for PR purposes? Surely the Marines had a reason to deploy this way didn’t they? In the next part of the article we find....Why yes! The Marines did have a good reason. Who’d a thunk?
“It’ll save wear and tear on the airplane,” Lt. Col. Curtis Hill said. “This will also allow time to do shipboard integration operations. That will help us down the road as we look to integrate them with the [Marine expeditionary units].”
But Bob isn’t taking any reasonable explanations without a fight……so he cavils :
All along the Marines have viewed the V-22 as a dual role aircraft, able to operate from ships or land. But the self deployment capability is highlighted over and over and as a true revolutionary breakthrough, at least when compared to slower moving, lower flying helicopters.

First, nice cherry-picking of only one (and not even the most important IMHO) of the revolutionary advantages the V-22's have over other vertical lift assets. Yes, the V-22 will be able to self-deploy, and yes it will be a major advantage when the V-22 is at or closer to Full Operating Capability (FOC). But the V-22 is barely past Initial Operating Capability (IOC) isn’t it? Since all major weapon systems go through this maturing process, and Bob IS an aerospace 'writer', one might assume Bob was aware of this fact. If he isn’t aware, that’s bad. If he is aware but chooses to ignore it and fails to relay his knowledge in his reporting in an effort to fit a template, well that’s despicable.

What does Bob do next? Why, he speculates and assigns intent to prevent embarrassment as the motive of the Marines!

Of course, the reliability record of the V-22 is such that the Marines probably don't want to take a chance on seeing several of the aircraft have to divert to landing spots along the way for repairs. The V-22s much ballyhooed trip to England last year for the Farnborough Air Show got even more attention when one plane diverted to Iceland due to engine troubles, later described as minor, and the return trip to the U.S. was delayed for other repairs.

Of course Bob doesn’t acknowledge what is "probably" (he uses the word, so I get to also) the REAL driver behind the transport scheme. If my experience is any guide, the Marine’s main objective is to get their aircraft and unit into the area of operations intact and as quickly and efficiently as possible so they can execute their mission as quickly and efficiently as possible, take their lessons learned while performing their mission and make the V-22 and the Marines that operate them a better team and instrument of national power in the future.

Visualize this Bob: The Mission--The Mission--The Mission.

Learn it.

Love it.

Bad press is a minor nit compared to unduly hampering the mission. And if Bob Cox and the Startlegram understood half of what they like to believe they do, and cared about their work one-tenth of what the military services do, they wouldn’t publish this tripe.

Full disclosure: I attended Lawrence D. Bell High School, named after the founder of Bell Helicopter. My family had a dog named Huey (after the UH-1), my father was an engine rep on many aircraft including the proof of concept demonstrator for the modern tiltrotors, the XV-15, and I hate flying in pure helicopters because, among other things, half of your wings are going in the wrong direction at any given time. More Disclosure: I forgot! My unit also supported the V-22 program office by flying around some proof-of-concept CV-22 (AF SOF version) sensor technology on one of our itty bitty RPVs for a bit. It wasn't that memorable as I recall, just another Lincoln Labs or some such drive-by test program. They came, we flew, we got patches, and I think eventually one of our H-53 pilots got assigned to the JPO.

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