The V-22 Osprey military aircraft is a tilt-rotor aircraft that takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter but it flies like an airplane when its wing mounted rotors are tilted to become propellers (Peña, 2003). In his article “V-22: Osprey or Albatross?” Peña (2003) says that many people “argue that the V-22 osprey has the operational flexibility of a helicopter but it is twice as fast, can carry more troops and also has five times the range” (p. 2). Peña (2003) continues to say that the V-22 osprey aircraft vertical takeoff and landing capability allows it to operate without traditional runways. This allows it to be efficient in military operations because the aircraft can operate from the decks of amphibious ships (Peña, 2003).
According to Evans (2004) “the main feature of the V-22 osprey is that it is capable of taking off vertically like a helicopter, then rotating its engine nacelles to fly like a conventional turboprop aircraft” (p. 165). Evans continues to say that this duel functionality gives the Osprey the ability to fly faster at higher altitudes (2004). The maximum speed of V-22 osprey is 275 knots which is about twice the speed of other helicopters.
A V-22 Osprey military aircraft can carry up to twenty four combat troops or twenty thousand pounds of cargo and uses two large proprotors with a diameter of thirty eight feet each and three blades per rotor. In addition the article “V-22: Osprey or Albatross?” by Peña (2003) says that the winged aircraft configuration gives the V-22 its significant speed and range of a traditional turboprop airplane and permits aerial refueling and self deployment. This according to Peña (2003) the aircraft can fly directly from its base theater of operations rather than being partially disassembled and transported via sealift or airlift.
According to the Military article “V-22 Osprey” (n.d) the V-22 “replaces the current marine corps assault helicopters in the medium lift category of CH-46E and CH-53D”. The Military article “V-22 Osprey” continues to say that “this aircraft has major contributions to the dominant maneuver of the marine landing force as well as supporting focused logistics in the days of amphibious operations”.
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Development of V-22 osprey military aircraft
The development of the V-22 osprey military aircraft has taken several steps. This is generally because of its design complexities. According to Lee (2008) the V-22 has endured a long over the budget development history with entrance to the service in 2005. Lee continues to say that the complexities in the tilt-rotor aircraft emerged during the development period (2008). Lee (2008) noted that “many of the aircraft and engine operation parameters are controlled by sensors and an onboard computer that sends commands to the control surfaces and the engine” (p. 130). During the development period it was noted that un-commanded engine acceleration occurred due to a glitch in the hardware wiring to the digital engine control which caused the aircraft to take off during engine idle (Lee, 2008).
In his article “V-22: Osprey or Albatross?” Peña (2003) says that during “1986 a fixed price contract for a joint service V-22 was awarded to Bell/Boeing which began preliminary design studies on an anti-submarine warfare variant of the V-22, the SV-22” (p. 3). In the year 1987 the Army withdrew from its commitment to procure the V-22 (Peña, 2003). Peña (2003) continues to say that in 1989 a test flight of the first of six planned FSD prototype aircraft was conducted but then it was cancelled due to budget considerations. In 1992 Peña (2003) says that the development of V-22 moved from FSD to engineering to and manufacturing development. In the year 1994 the V-22 passed a Joint requirements Oversight Council review and the DAB approved the V-22 EMD program (Peña, 2003). According to Peña (2003) the first EMD aircraft underwent a test flight. He continues to say that the DAB authorized the first lot of aircraft for low rate initial production.
During the year 2000 in April the article “V-22: Osprey or Albatross?” by Peña (2003) says that an EMD aircraft crashed when the pilot lost control during a high rate descent killing 19 Marines. Peña (2003) continues to say that in December the same year an LRIP aircraft crashed during a routine night approach killing all four Marines on board. As a result Peña (2003) says “V-22 aircraft was grounded pending a review of the program by a blue-ribbon panel” (p. 4). He continues to say that according to press reports the V-22 maintenance records had been falsified to two years at the explicit direction of the squadron commander (Peña, 2003).
The development of V-22 Osprey in the year 2001 January faced continued controversy because the squadron commander admitted falsifying maintenance records (Peña, 2003). As a result it was concluded that the need for a capability of the type the V-22 was designed to satisfy appeared to be justified and by its demonstrated performance the V-22 had shown its unique potential to meet that need (Peña, 2003). Peña (2003) established that in the year 2002 the V-22 was cleared for flight- testing hence in May the same year the Marines resumed flight-testing of the V-22 for the first time since the aircraft was grounded.
In addition Sullivan (2009) in his article “V-22 Osprey Aircraft” says that “since the V-22 Osprey began development in the mid 1980s it has experienced several fatal crashes demonstrated a variety of deficiencies and also faced the virtual cancellation of the program” (p. 1). He however says that much of this has been overcome. Sullivan (2009) commented that there are two variants of the V-22 military aircraft currently being used. Firstly, the MV-22 variant of V-22 was developed for the Marine Corps and was to replace the CH-46E helicopter as the Marine Corps medium lift aircraft (Sullivan, 2009). The second variant according to Sullivan (2009) is CV-22 which was to augment existing U.S special operations command aircraft. These two variants worked hand in hand for example they were deployed in Iraqi and their mission capability monitored.
Evans (2004) says that “the first prototype of V-22 Osprey flew on March 19, 1989, but due to several accidents involving loss of life, as well as cost concerns the V-22 Osprey development program has been proceeding at a very careful pace” (p. 165). Evans (2004) continues to say that during the history of V-22 Osprey development it was cancelled by the Bush administration in 1989, then restarted by the Clinton administration and grounded temporarily until safety concerns were resolved.
In his further studies Evans (2004) determined that V-22 Osprey returned to flight on May 29, 2002 and since then it has been involved in continued flight testing. Evans (2004) also says that “the current focus in its development is on high rates of descent, low speed maneuvering and shipboard landings” (p. 165). The plan in 2002 called for production of 11 Ospreys per year until a second operational evaluation which was conducted in 2005 (Evans, 2004). The production then was expected to rise to 39 aircraft per year in 2005.
According to Peña (2003) the tilt-rotor concept is more than 50 years old. In a period of more than 15 years forty reproduction models have been built but no aircraft was operationally deployed until 2005. Peña (2003) continues to indicate that nowadays “the development of V-22 Osprey air craft is driven largely by a Marine Corps requirement in order to replace the aging CH-46 assault transport helicopter” (p. 5). More interestingly Peña (2003) argues that “the development of V-22 Osprey will give the Marine Corps an unprecedented capability to quickly and decisively project power from well over the horizon” (p. 5). He continues to say that the Marine Corps also considers the development of the V-22 Osprey military aircraft as an important foundation upon which its vision for projecting naval power ashore rests that is operation maneuver from sea (Peña, 2003).
Design specifications of V-22 osprey military aircraft
Moir & Seabridge (2008) established that “V-22 Osprey aircraft is powered by two 6000 shp Allison T-406 turbine engines which are contained within the tilting nacelles” (p. 358). Each engine combination weighs about 5000 lb which is almost the same as the total weight of the original Bell XV-3. Moir & Seabridge (2008) stated that “total production aircraft weight is in the region of 32000 lb empty” (p. 358). In order to minimize structural and maximize the payload the aircraft makes extensive use of composite materials (Moir & Seabridge, 2008).
In his research Evans (2004) determined that the design specification of V-22 military aircraft enables it to carry thousand pounds of cargo. Evans continues to say that the aircraft uses two large proprotors with a diameter of 38 feet each and three blades per rotor (2004). The two proprotors are connected to one another via a single interconnect shaft so that both can be powered by a single engine in the event of engine failure in either one or two engines (Evans, 2004).
Evans (2004) also noted that “the airframe of the V-22 is made up of a graphite reinforced epoxy composite material that provides good strength to weight ratio, compared with metal construction” (p. 165). It also has an electronic warfare package that includes radar warning, missile warning and countermeasures support (Evans, 2004). According to the article published by Federation of American Scientists (FAS) “V-22 Osprey” the aircraft has a built-in “battle damage tolerance by a means of composite construction and redundant and separated flight control electrical and hydraulic systems”.
Grant & Rousseau (2000) indicated that the “V-22 tilt rotor is designed to operate both a rotary-wing (nacelle incidence angles greater than 0 and less than or equal to 97.5 deg) and at the same time a fixed wing (nacelle incidence angle of 0 deg) aircraft” (p. 133). They continue to say that the V-22 specification requires that the dynamic components should have a minimum structural fatigue life of 30000 hours when substantiated for the design fatigue loading requirements n both of these operating modes (Grant & Rousseau, 2000).
The specifications of particular interest on the V-22 aircraft according to Moir & Seabridge (2008) are the propulsion drive, fuel and flight control systems. Moir & Seabridge (2008) says that the “V-22 propulsion drive system is designed such that each engine drives a prop rotor gearbox located in the nacelles from which each rotor is driven in the opposing direction to the other thereby counter-balancing torque effects” (p. 358).
In addition, Veronico & Dunn (2004) says that in the design of V-22 Osprey the wing rotates and the rotor blades fold for shipboard storage abroad from aircraft carries and amphibious assault ships. Veronico & Dunn (2004) continue to say that “the twin, tilt-rotor craft takes off and lands like a helicopter but converts to conventional flight by rotating its engines forward 90 degrees” (p. 117). According to Veronico & Dunn (2004) “the aircraft is designed such that when the engines face forward the V-22 Osprey has the same capabilities as any turbo-powered aircraft making it capable of speeds of 300 miles per hour with a range of more than 500 miles” (p. 117).
The V-22 Osprey has the capability to change from vertical to conventional flight and back which enables troop carrying (Veronico & Dunn, 2004). This also enables Osprey aircrafts to depart from a ship like a helicopter transition to forward flight and fly over the horizon to a beachhead (Veronico & Dunn, 2004). Veronico & Dunn (2004) further says “the speed of V-22 osprey allows it to make nearly three trips in the time it would take a single helicopter to make just one round trip” (p. 117). This type of aircraft has an in built redundancy designed into the Osprey in such a way that if its engine was hit by ground fire, the opposite engine could drive both rotors through the planes cross coupled transmissions (Veronico & Dunn, 2004).
Advantages of V-22 Osprey aircraft
O'Hanlon (2000) says that the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft is an impressive new capability. O'Hanlon (2000) continues to say that with a top speed of more than 300 miles per hour it is at least 50 percent faster than modern helicopters. Another advantage is that the aircraft has a normal mission radius of more than 200 miles which means more than 300 kilometers it also has greater range than most current helicopters (O'Hanlon, 2000). This as indicated by O'Hanlon (2000) is “much less of an advantage than the Marine Corps routinely claims when comparing it against one particular shorter range system” (p. 73).
The Osprey aircraft according to O'Hanlon (2000) is not particularly fast, large, efficient or stealthy; however it has a reduced vulnerability to enemy action. O'Hanlon says that it is notably better than modern helicopters equipped with similar countermeasures only when eing shot at by small arms (2000). Besides this advantage Peña (2003) adds that “the V-22 aircraft does have over most helicopters is an in-flight aerial refueling capability that makes its range almost unlimited” (p. 7).
The measure of payload capability does not substantiate the claim that the V-22 Osprey military aircraft can carry three times more payload than a helicopter (Peña, 2003). Peña (2003) continues to say that “the one area in which the Osprey may have a payload advantage is its demonstrated ability to carry a ten thousand pound external load using a single cargo hook at 230 knots” (p. 7).
The other feature which outshines in V-22 aircraft is survivability. Peña (2003) found out that “while flying as an airplane the V-22 Osprey is faster and a harder target to hit than are slower helicopters” (p. 7). Therefore this means that while going to and from the landing zone the V-22 Osprey aircraft is less vulnerable (Peña, 2003). Moreover, Peña (2003) says that “the V-22 Osprey is supposed to be more resistant to small arms fire and thus more survivable” (p. 7). Another survivability advantage of the V-22 Osprey is that it is supposed to provide NBC protection (Peña, 2003). This according to Peña (2003) is due to pressure V-22 overpressure and filtration systems.
O'Hanlon (1998) says that “the V-22 Osprey profits form improved systems designed to survive in a nuclear, chemical or biological environment; reduce the aircrafts infrared and acoustic signatures” (p. 123). The aircraft is able to absorb heavier fire than existing helicopters can take before catastrophic failure (O'Hanlon, 1998). O'Hanlon (1998) continues to state that its major advantage over traditional rotary aircraft are most relevant to highly time sensitive or longer range operations and not as much to large scale amphibious assault.
V-22 Osprey is perhaps more significant because it provides sufficient aircraft to use on routine Marine expeditionary unit patrols that are often the nation’s frontline reaction force for operations such as embassy evacuation (O'Hanlon, 1998). O'Hanlon (1998) also says that it can provide aircraft for search and rescue and for antiterrorists or counter proliferation missions. Bledsoe & Karen (2002) in addition says that because V-22 Osprey aircraft comes in two variants both MV-22 and CV-22 the U.S S Air force only uses the CV-22. The MV-22 is designed to carry troops into an area after a first attack (Bledsoe & Karen, 2002). Bledsoe & Karen (2002) indicated that it can also can carry supplies and equipment or rescue troops from dangerous areas. Another advantage is that it can rescue downed airplane pilots in enemy territory. Bledsoe & Karen (2002) also noted that “the V-22 Osprey is designed to operate in any kind of weather during the day or at night” (p. 35).
Disadvantages of V-22 Osprey aircraft
Over the time scholars have noted that the U.S military makes limited use of the V-22 Osprey aircraft. According to Bledsoe & Karen (2002) this is because of the crafts poor safety record. For example in 1999 two Osprey crashes killed 23 marines (Bledsoe & Karen, 2002). Bledsoe & Karen (2002) continues to say that “one possible cause of the crashes is damage of the aircrafts hydraulic systems” (p. 36).
Another major disadvantage of V-22 aircraft is that it operates as both as a helicopter and a propeller driven airplane. Bledsoe & Karen (2002) says that “pilots need special training and a great deal of practice to fly the craft” (p. 37). In this context few pilots are equally skilled in flying both helicopters and airplanes hence this means pilots may be faced with challenges due to human error. This therefore implies that the aircraft may be prone to crashes if the issues related to human error are not addressed.
There are numerous complexities in the development of V-22 Osprey aircraft. Lee (2008) noted that many of the aircraft and engine operation parameters are controlled by sensors and an onboard computer that sends commands to the control surfaces and engine. This therefore means that the stability of the aircraft is sensitive and dependent on the computer commands hence a faulty chip or software could cause the aircraft to lose control (Lee, 2008).
Cost is a major setback which has for long been associated with the development of V-22 Osprey aircraft. Peña (2003) in his article says that to date $ 12 billion has been spent on the V-22 program. Peña (2003) continues to say that the cost implications mean that comparable helicopter capability can be purchased at a considerably lower cost. Peña (2003) also indicates that “given the less than stellar success of the V-22 program to date the marginal gains in speed, range and payload do not seem worth the high costs and risks associated with the program” (p. 9). This is because there are lower cost alternatives which can be considered.
O'Hanlon (1998) says that the technology behind the development of V-22 Osprey military aircraft remains promising yet untested under realistic circumstances. The major demerit is that its operating costs are considerably greater than for helicopters with equivalent capability (O'Hanlon, 1998). This is specifically about twice as great as for the CH-53E, which has a greater payload and an ability to carry heavy equipment the V-22 Osprey cannot. Bledsoe & Karen (2002) noted that the U.S government is concerned about the crashes because each aircraft costs $40.1 million.
Other major disadvantages of V-22 Osprey were noted by Sullivan (2009) in his report “V-22 Osprey Aircraft Assessments Needed to Address Operational and Cost Concerns to Define Future Investments”. Sullivan (2009) says that although the aircraft was intended to operate in high threat environments this was not demonstrated in Iraq. Sullivan (2009) noted that “the V-22 has maneuvering limits that restricts its ability to perform defensive maneuvers and it does not have a required integrated defensive weapon needed while approaching a landing zone, disembarking troops within the landing zone or when leaving the landing zone” (p. 8)
Lastly Sullivan (2009) noted that “the V-22 Osprey large inventory of repair parts constrains hangar deck space essential for maintenance actions on the V-22 and other aircraft” (p. 9). This is a disadvantage because the space needed for its repair parts is so large that some parts may need to be prepositioned ashore. In addition because of its larger capacity it was noted that V-22 Osprey military aircraft can not fully utilize all operational deck spots on ships (Sullivan, 2009).