FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Baptism Under Fire

by LEE GAILLARD

The first combat tiltrotor squadron played a key role in the Marine Air Ground Task Force integration training on 1 March 2007; the squadron was subsequently deemed to have completed a successful transition from CH-46s Sea Knights to the MV-22B Osprey.

As baptism by fire looms, how combat-ready are the Ospreys of the first operational squadron (VMM-263)? Can they be supported in the field?

Given the Osprey’s glitch-plagued quarter century of development, those are loaded questions. In weighing the evidence, a number of issues should be considered.

MV-22Bs are restricted from taking radical evasive maneuvers. Planned three-barrel nose turrets for clearing hostile landing zones have been replaced by ramp-mounted guns that fire to the rear and impede troop egress.

Despite the technical review warning of component and flight control computer obsolescence issues conducted by US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in 2003, all V-22s were grounded last month because of faulty Texas Instruments chips in their computerized flight control systems.

A further issue that needs to addressing is continuing engine fires. A fire in 1992 caused a crash that killed seven people. Other fires followed as recently as 2005 and 2006.

On 6 December 2006, 54 seconds after an MV-22B landed at US Marine Air Corps Station New River, North Carolina, yet another Osprey fire severely damaged an engine and its nacelle. Had the aircraft been in flight, crew members could have died. In this incident, an “engine air particle separator (EAPS) hydraulic pressure tube… ruptured,” spraying volatile hydraulic fluid into the hot section of the infrared suppressor. February’s detailed final accident report traced the event sequence back to a “severely worn impeller shaft and journal bearing.” The cascading effects caused vibration, rapid flow and pressure spikes of 2,000 to 3,000 psi above the standard 5,000 psi (which resulted in fatigue cracks in the thin-walled 0.25-inch hydraulic line’s brittle titanium alloy), tube fracture and fire.

The February engineering investigation report recommended among other actions redesigning “the EAPS hydraulic system,” as well as the nacelle drainage system, the EAPS blower failure detection system, the infrared suppressor section (adding a fire detector and extinguisher), and software for the leak detection and isolation system. The report failed to mention conclusions regarding the impeller shaft and journal bearing: did poor design, poor subcontractor quality control or inadequate maintenance play a role? It begs the question whether these redesigned and rebuilt systems will be installed in all aircraft before combat deployment.

As hydraulic woes continue, so do software glitches. A small sample includes the following problems:

* According to a February 2007 NAVAIR maintenance memo posted on Military.com, an MV-22B’s EAPS blower failed when a mission computer performed an uncommanded reset on the ground, causing the motor to run with no case drain flow. “Loss of aircraft and aircrew” was listed as possible in-flight outcome. * An early 2006 maintenance assessment found that faulty software had caused “uncommanded wing rotation during the blade fold wing stow sequence,” with potential fuselage damage and delay of flight deck operations. * On 27 March 2006, a digital engine control software problem triggered uncommanded takeoff of an Osprey whose engines had been idling, then reduced power; slamming back to the ground, the aircraft snapped off its right wing. It apparently will not return to flight status.

An internal April 2006 memo reported that the Second Marine Air Wing’s maintenance and supply Tiger Team had assessed the Osprey’s operational supportability. Their findings are disturbing.

For example, training squadron VMMT-204 (flying MV-22As) achieved roughly a 60 percent mission capability rate with 50 per cent full mission capability versus requirements of 82 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively. The number of repair requests was 3.7 times the expected amount. Poor reliability in the technicians’ portable diagnostic devices hindered their ability to troubleshoot glitches. Warm hangar temperatures also caused maintenance ground stations to overheat, resulting in shutdowns or failures.

Premature component failures increased demand for technicians but maintainers faced hiring restrictions and reduced logistics funding. Undeniably, when combat squadrons “operate in harsh environments from remote land bases and naval ships … supportability will be more challenging”.

In the year since, how have the improved Block B aircraft fared?

According to InsideDefense.com, the US Air Force’s mid-2006 “operational utility evaluation” of four CV-22Bs at Kirkland Air Force Base, New Mexico, found mission effectiveness and maintenance efforts “degraded by poor aircraft availability” caused by “frequent part and system failures, limited supply support, and high false alarm rates”. As for the Marine Corps, in a February 2007 memo, V-22 testing officials at Patuxent River, Maryland, reported MV-22B readiness for Operational Test and Evaluation to be jeopardized by:

* excessive false alarms and aborts, reducing availability and increasing maintenance loads; * environmental control systems that still expose troops to extreme cold or heat stress; * “multiple cargo handling system deficiencies” that, despite system redesign, still hinder operations, requiring hand loading of cargo and mission delays; * delays and dangers to aircraft and personnel during austere operations, caused by filters and “components clogged and damaged by sand, dust, dirt, and grass,” including in the environmental control system, the crucial avionics bay cooling system and heat exchangers for gearboxes controlling the tilt axis, the backup midwing drive system and the proprotors.

This is only a partial listing of the problems.

With lives at stake, the question bears repeating: how combat-ready and maintainable is the MV-22B Osprey?

LEE GAILLARD is a writer on defence and aviation issues. He is a contributor to the Center for Defense Information’s Straus Military Reform Project.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail