Osprey Again in the Cross Hairs

The Marine Corps was in the hot seat during a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing this week that clearly took aim at the V-22 Osprey (USMC operates the MV-22 and USAF the CV-22). Committee chairman Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) skewered Osprey for performance and cost issues, and ended the session, saying, “It’s time to put the Osprey out of its misery and to put the taxpayers out of their misery.” (Towns wants to halt production.) Both the Marine Corps and Air Force have deployed their Ospreys, to Iraq and to Africa, respectively, and returned with high praise for the tilt-rotor aircraft. A recent Government Accountability Office report cited “sharply” rising costs, which it said has nearly tripled from original 1986 per unit estimates, and “unreliable component parts.” The GAO and other critics also claimed the aircraft will have operational limitations in the high-altitude, hot and cold extremes of Afghanistan—the Marine Corps expects to deploy some MV-22s there later this year. GAO contends that component problems led the marines to cannibalize Ospreys to keep those deployed flying and reports a mission availability rate in Iraq of an average 62 percent. Lt. Gen. George Trautman, deputy commandant for aviation, acknowledged that the Osprey “like other types of aircraft in the early operational phases of their life cycle” has its share of challenges, like “lower than desired reliability of some components.” USMC Lt. Col. Karsten Heckl, who commanded one of the MV-22 deployments and is a veteran CH-46 helicopter pilot, called some of the critical testimony “just blatantly inaccurate.” He asserted that he couldn’t understand criticism about mission limitations, saying, “I’m missing something, and I must have been asleep in Iraq for seven months; it does it all.” He noted that the Ospreys handled some missions that his “46 couldn’t have even done.” (For more on CV-22, read Finally, the Osprey)