Saturday, May 18, 2024

Ospreys Put On Short Leash

 Breaking Defense, V-22 Osprey operating with ‘limited envelope,’ required to stay near airfields

While the Defense Department’s various V-22 fleets may all have returned to some form of service following a safety-related grounding, they will continue to operate under a “limited envelope” for the foreseeable future, top acquisition officials said today.

Nickolas Guertin, the Navy’s senior acquisition official, told Senate appropriators that his service has established a “crawl-walk-run” approach to slowly bring the V-22 fleet up to full speed, but did not give a timeline for when that might be.

The US grounded its V-22 fleets on Dec. 6, following a Nov. 29 mishap during which eight airmen were killed when their Osprey crashed off the coast of Japan. Flight operations formally resumed March 6, although clearly not at full-strength.

“We rigorously investigated” the cause of the crash, Guertin said today. “We looked at what — we actually brought that craft back up out of the water, we investigated what was going on, did a detailed analysis. And we better understand what happened in that particular failure mode.”

The V-22 fleets are “now in a limited envelope. But we’re characterizing and collecting data so that we can better understand where we are, and be able to safely get back to the full flight envelope for that aircraft.”

While Guertin did not explain what that “limited envelope” means, the recently released draft National Defense Authorization Act contains language that sheds some light on the issue, as first reported by Aviation Week.

“The committee understands that current CMV-22 operations are limited to flights and missions that stay within 30 minutes of a suitable divert airfield,” the language from the subcommittee on seapower and projection forces reads.
According to Aviation Week, that 30 minute restriction currently applies to all V-22 variants, not just the CVM-22 — although, as the HASC notes, that variant is supposed to do carrier operations, and effectively cannot do that mission as long as the restrictions are in place.

We occasionally see Ospreys fly over here. We are certainly within 30 minutes flying distance of Patuxent River Naval Air Station and Andrews Airforce Base, either of which could be home to V-22s. 

The Ospreys have a long history of mechanical and operator failures. A engineer friend of mine, who worked on them during their early years at Pax once told me he wouldn't get one knowing what he knows. When I asked him recently, though, he said he would now.

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