There was supposed to be a Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the V-22 this morning with the GAO’s Mike Sullivan, CSBA’s Dakota Wood, Marine Corps Lt. General Trautman and Lt Col. Karsten Heckl (CDR VMM-162). But, well…let’s just say it was attenuated. And Edolphus Towns (D-NY) is, well, angry. VERY angry. Read:

Good morning. Thank you all for being here.

We had hoped to conduct today a thorough examination of the Defense Department’s V-22 Osprey, an aircraft with a controversial past, a troubled present, and an uncertain future. However, the Defense Department has evidently decided to stonewall our investigation. On May 5, 2009, I wrote to Secretary of Defense Gates to request information on the Osprey, including copies of two reports on the performance of the Osprey in Iraq, called “Lessons and Observations.” I also requested a list of all V-22 Ospreys acquired by the Defense Department, including their current locations and flight status.

However, to this date, the Defense Department has failed to provide this information, despite repeated reminders from the Committee. This is simply unacceptable.

General Trautman, I want you to carry this message back to the Pentagon: We will pursue this investigation even harder than we have so far. We will not be slow-rolled. We will not be ignored. I intend to conduct a full investigation of the Osprey, not just an investigation of the information that you want me to see. We hope you will provide it voluntarily, but if you do not, we will compel your compliance.

To ensure a thorough investigation and to allow the Defense Department additional time to provide us with these records, we will continue this hearing in two weeks and I am asking the witnesses to return to present their testimony at that time. This hearing is now adjourned, to be resumed in two weeks at the call of the chair.

Thank you.

Ouch. Here’s what Congress wanted–and the Marine Corps did not provide:

1) an inventory of all Osprey, indicating date of acquisition, current location, and whether still in service.

2) A list indicating the readiness condition of each aircraft for each day for the period beginning with the Initial Operational Capability date in March 2007 through April 30,2009, and the specific reasons for each aircraft not being Mission Capable or Full Mission Capable.

3) Two reports: MV-22 Combat Operations in Iraq – Lessons and Observations from VMM-263 Deployed October 2007 – April 2008 OIF 06-08.2, dated May 14, 2008; and MY-22 Combat Operations in Iraq – Lessons and Observations from Tiltrotor Squadron VMM-266 in Operation Iraqi Freedom, September 2008 – April 2009, OIF 08.2, dated March 9,2009.

4) Copies of all other memoranda, studies, and reports that discuss, assess, or analyze: (a) the overall readiness condition and availability of the V-22 aircraft; and (b) the operational effectiveness and operational suitability of V-22s used in Iraq since October 2007.

Some of this (particularly #2) is Congressional fishing expedition-type stuff. But failing to give Congress what is, in essence, some simple, already complied information is inexplicable. With all this reluctance to show the unwashed, unspun data, I have to ask–is the MV-22 program up to it’s old habit of massaging away uncomfortable data?

If so, we need to fire some people. (Heads, pikes, the lot…)

Look. We’ve wrapped our whole amphibious fleet around this platform. We’ve spent billions to accommodate this rotary wing platform (all while the carrier fleet has doubled-down on conventional helos…) The least the V-22 program office can do for the country is to stand up, show cards and face the music.

I mean, if there’s nothing wrong, and the MV-22 is as wonderful as everybody claims, then…WHAT DO WE HAVE TO HIDE, eh? Why not show the data and let Congress sing ya’lls praises? (And if you need help, then, well, ask. The MV-22 has plenty of friends…)

Gotta wonder if somebody spilled some beans someplace. What sparked this inquiry? We’ll probably never know, it’s sure fun to see Congress show a little spunk and get riled up. Let’s see more!


Posted by Defense Springboard in Aviation, Marine Corps

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  • UltimaRatioReg

    Huh. That’s all they asked for? Two years worth of NATOPS maintenance records on each and every platform in the inventory? ALL other memoranda and studies on readiness and operational effectiveness of the MV-22? Two major AARs, portions of which are likely classified and would need redacting? That’s IT? And a whole 15 days to gather it all?

    Let me guess. If there was something somehow missing or did not get reviewed in those 15 days, it was an intentional attempt to hide/stall. And in those reports, every error or oversight will be considered due to incompetence or intentional misconduct, acts worthy of blame and likely punishment, but certainly severe criticism. Or have I misread the House Speaker’s tone regarding such things (CIA)?

    “it’s sure fun to see Congress show a little spunk and get riled up”

    That would be true if they got riled up about not enough ships in our Navy or a lack of a viable NGF system, or perhaps inadequate VA health care for our returning heroes. That would be much more fun than the witch hunt aimed at a capability considered vital to future operations.

    What MIGHT be fun, Springboard, is putting your a** in a 50-year old CH-46 flying at 80 knots and 500 feet, with green tracers wizzing by. And while you are sitting there considering how the MV-22 flying at 10,000 feet and 250 knots might have been of use at such a moment, you can look across the A/C and see Edolphus Towns (D-NY) riding in there with you. Now that! That would be fun.

  • URR’s pretty much got it right there, Springboard. On top of that, the Executive Branch may be making a point that it is not subordinate to the Legislative Branch, as much as the Congressman apparently wishes it so.

  • Hey, it looks like the Marines got the data together and OSD’s being slow to release. But yeah, for round ‘about $100 million dollars a pop, I want perfection. Set those PowerPoint rangers loose, and get that data out.

    I mean, why not the best, right? (And, heck, URR fills the comment threads around here arguing that the Marines are the best, so…I don’t understand why he’s implying on this thread that Marines might be…average and (gasp) capable of making (sharp breath) mistakes! Shocking!)

    And, hey, if I can’t have the best, I’ll settle for “why not the most,” and yammer for Congress to force-feed you amphibious/expeditionary folks, oh, say, four updated CH-47F or G’s for price of a single MV-22. Maybe I’ll be nice, and throw in the cost to navalize it a bit and settle for three new CH-47s for the price of one MV-22.

    I just don’t see Marine Corps making a compelling case for the MV-22 in operations. Aside from the CH-46 being old–really old–the quick-find replacement HH-60 knighthawks seem to be gettin the job done just fine. Where’s the looming force overmatch? What justifies the cost of this “transformational” move to the MV-22 platform? Other than convenience (i.e. speed) you got nothin. Nothin. What shoots down choppers will, with a bit of modification, do just as well knocking down MV-22s. Don’t get me wrong–I’d love to have the MV-22 and yes, sure, it’s uncomfy to fly in slow and low, but we’ve done pretty well with that tactic thusfar. But with the budget so low, we can’t afford to buy stuff just’cause it’s “nice” and easier on the fanny.

    Do we NEED it or NOT?

    Unless there’s some really great Intel out there on some future “country red” capabilities that we’re not gettin’ in the open source arena…we can get by with cheaper stuff.

    What’s wrong with indulging in a little rotary wing incrementalism from time to time (Model 360, anyone?)? What the Marines have done in their pursuit of transformation is…well…nothing more than priced themselves right out of their amphibious/expeditionary warfare specialty.

    Frankly, I’m afraid the QDR is going to be a disaster for amphibious warfare–because the high cost of all the fancy gadgets we need for amphibious/expeditionary warfare offsets the perceived future strategic benefit of maintaining that capability.

    And that’s going to be a mess for all of us.

  • Spade

    Speed does not just equal “convenience” in a combat zone.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    May you spend all eternity as a battalion commander stuck with the COA of flying most of your men in several slow-moving short-hop sticks through the teeth of the enemy low-level air defenses.

    “What shoots down choppers will, with a bit of modification, do just as well knocking down MV-22s.”

    Let’s see a 14.5 or a 12.7 , or an SA-7 reach 6,000 ft and hit something moving at 200+ knots. Even unsophisticated opponents have significant low-level AD capabilities.

    And why do you keep saying “we”? Your detached bemusement and back-bench and uninformed comments regarding tactical utility of the MV-22 are those of an academic. Your belief that such capabilities are mere matters of comfort and convenience ring silly and more than a little arrogant. Sufficiently so that you should refrain from the first person plural unless you and the good Congressman take a few of those trips I mention in my first comments.

    As for amphibious warfare, to eliminate or truncate past usefulness such capabilities is to gamble (against historical lessons learned) that we will no longer need over-the-beach power projection. A dangerous and irresponsible assumption. There are many places in the world’s littorals that are prospects for that very type of power projection.

  • Mike M.

    Items #2 and #4 are pure fishing expedition, and I can see the USMC stalling. Item #1 can be compiled.

    But the reports of item #3? That’s NOT a fishing expedition. That’s a perfectly legitimate request. Both the reports and the authors should be made available.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “But the reports of item #3? That’s NOT a fishing expedition. That’s a perfectly legitimate request. Both the reports and the authors should be made available.”

    Absolutely. But to have it ALL in 15 days? And by the way, if the USMC submitted the data and OSD is holding it, then this is an old-fashioned arm-wrestling match between the executive and legislative. And calls for “heads on pikes” only encompass 536 possible candidates…

    *Burma Shave* from my last comments.. I meant to say “RPG-7” and not “SA-7”. More coffee, please.

  • Chuck

    I don’t think it’s convenience when somebody’s bleeding out and needs a MEDEVAC like right now. I don’t think it’s convenience when someone’s in a bad spot and needs reinforcement/resupply toot sweet. I don’t think it’s convenience when some Bullfrogs are near FIFTY (50) years old. Speed is life. So is range and payload. The Osprey represents a truly transformational capability that will save lives on the battlefield. If it has teething troubles, well, so do lots of other platforms.

    Back a few decades ago, there was an aircraft that had a spate of bad crashes. Seems the landing gear would inexplicably drop at high speed and cause a catastrophic failure. The tail was weak with a full fuel load and there were some serious CG issues too. The plane was the P-51 Mustang. Probably we should have cancelled it. I’m sure we could have soldiered on with P-40s.

  • RickWilmes

    I am sure similiar arguments and tactics were used against the CH-46. The CH-46 served it’s purpose. The Osprey will do the same. Any new form of technology will have growing pains.

  • The P-51 went from prototype to combat in less than two years.

    With that kind of schedule, sure, I’ll accept losses.

    The MV-22? Yeah. Call me when a MV-22 gets sent on a mission where it is somewhat likely to attract tracer fire.

  • Moose

    When they hit Af-Pak, they’ll see fire. Hence their rushing to put the turret gun on her.

    Speed, Range, Altitude (last one is often glossed over, people easily forget the comparatively low ceiling on most ‘choppers) aren’t just conveniences, the crews and passengers don’t heap praise on them because it’s a joy ride.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “Call me when a MV-22 gets sent on a mission where it is somewhat likely to attract tracer fire.”

    I know Marines are assumed to always choose the frontal assault as a COA, but isn’t the idea to have a capable platform that is difficult for the enemy to shoot at, or, failing that, something that is survivable and/or hard to hit?

    And Spring, I would submit that one can take fire from surprising places at unexpected times during both conventional and counterinsurgency ops. One of the reasons those serving there get HDP.

  • John

    So I go to Spring’s site, and see 4 articles on the 2 most recent pages slamming the Osprey. Okay, we get it, you don’t like it. Ever flown on one? How about a CH-46? I flew plenty on both during my last deployment-OIF MEF staff. I’ll take the Osprey anytime over the 46, or the 53, 47, or the 60. Only aircraft that hasn’t leaked all over me.

    Osprey holds 2X the troops, you telling me we can FIT enough HH-60s on our amphibs-not too mention the added flight and maintenance crews to make a company sized assault? Oh, one of them crashed at sea last week. I found an article that mentioned 29 H-60s crashed and killed 48 people between 1980-1987 alone, maybe we should investigate that program some more. How about the F-22, 2-3X the cost per bird and hasn’t even gone to the combat zone.

    As far as capabilities not being necessary, how can 2X as fast, 2X the range, and 2X as high not be worth it in combat? Especially when the amphibs can’t get as close to shore as they used to. Or our troubles getting overflight or landing priveleges.

    As far as the numbers in service, it takes time to transition a squadron from a 50 year old chopper to a tiltrotor with a modern cockpit. Especially when Congress is sticking their nose into your business every 5 minutes.

    The P-51 was a dog until they put a new engine in it. Hardly as transformational a project as a tiltrotor. The Osprey has had it’s problems, like everything else that flies. The capability and the investment will be worth it down the road.

  • Will somebody tell me why the esthetic needs of a staff officer drives strategy? Seriously, are spotless uniforms that important?

    If we want to mention H-60s, and the number of casualties that family has accrued over time. Let me remind you that some 3000 BLACKHAWKS have been produced. We won’t even throw in Seahawks or Pavehawks. Or discuss the export $$$ this platform gives us…V-22s will be hard pressed to even land on our maritime partner platforms. Who is gonna buy it?

    How many MV-22s can we fit–and operate–from an LHD? Try ten. Maybe twelve (And that’s gonna be an awfully fun loadout, let me tell ya). (How many MV-22 did go out on the Bataan ARG, anyway?) Last check…we could cram in 40something phrogs on a LHD if we had a mind to. Imagine if we chose to first do modern cockpit (read UH-60S) and incremental improvements on the old phrog design? (or just scrapped it and went with modified chinooks)

    And we can go on and on…Wow! The V-22 is neat! transformational! new! tech! (yes, it is) But..look, we built the P-51 to fight the war we were in at the time. And even it’s most crappy variant served to fight. The V-22? It was built to demonstrate technology but…now that we’re in a war…it ain’t doing much for us beyond keeping staff unifoms all nice, crispy and neat for all those VIP visits to the hinterland firebase!

    Sad thing is, we’ve gone and wrapped our amphib fleet and tactics around this thing and now we’re going to probably pay the price in the QDR. It’s probably going to be ugly. And that worries me. We can’t afford to loose amphibious/expeditonary assault capability.

    But we seem to be trying awfully hard.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “Will somebody tell me why the esthetic needs of a staff officer drives strategy? Seriously, are spotless uniforms that important?”

    I suppose I would phrase it this way, Springboard.

    “Will someone tell me why the shallow and uninformed opinions of a non-military academic who doesn’t understand tactical mobility or operational maneuver should drive capabilites discussions that impact basic warfighting capabilities?”

    If you sometimes wonder why your opinions are met with some little hostility here, this is a fine example. With a wave, you discount and belittle the knowledge and views of men who have served in combat, whose opinions are based on many years of trying to solve such problems as tactical mobility and operational maneuver with outdated platforms with limited capability. You do this without ever having served yourself, without ever having to live with the consequences of either following or ignoring the advice of those men learned in the ways of warfare. Hell, you don’t even show you understand the fundamentals of war, and how they apply to systems like the MV-22 or the CH-46 and what makes the former so much more desirable than the latter.

    The QDR may indeed be a nightmare for amphibious operations capabilities. It certainly would not be the first time some capability was gutted that we find out later (in blood, usually) we should have kept.

    Witness the “peace dividend” nonsense of 15 years ago. The US Army went from 18 divisions to 14, to 10. From “fight two”, to “fight one, hold one”, to “fight one and hope for the best”. The USMC went from 3 divisions to 2 and change. The Navy dropped from almost 500 ships to 280. Also, we went from a largely forward deployed force, to (theoretically) a rapidly deployable force. THEN we cut strategic mobility. Most of the subsequent war games now have a considerable set of strategic and operational mobility obstacles.

    Will the same happen this time? Perhaps it will. No matter what occurs in the QDR, it is the men whose opinions you dismiss so quickly and easily who will have to live with the consequences, and not you. So, lay off the lecture tone, until you have an audience for whom it is appropriate.

  • John

    Springbored doesn’t get “tongue in cheek”. Although the ability of an aircraft to fly without leaking fluids all over it’s passengers is a good thing (safety, efficiency), notice he doesn’t address how the aircrafts’ capabilities are useful. If the enemy knows your aircraft can only fly 120 miles from the ship, and 50-60 of that is over water, he has considerably fewer LZs to cover than the Osprey can reach-and the Osprey can be refueled.

    As far as the Bataan, according to numerous reports, in addition to the 10 V-22s, she went to sea with the standard load of aircraft for a MEU. Me thinks that we can fit more than 10 if we left the rest of the birds back. And we don’t need to carry 40 of them-20 V-22s carry as many troops as 40-45 HH-60s. He also doesn’t address the cost of 2-3X as many aircrew and mechs to fly and maintain the larger fleet of HH-60s to fly the same amount of troops.

    Transformational is a hot buzz word that gets people in a tizzy, but think about what it means. Nothing else but the V-22 can do what it does-move X payload Y distance at Z speed into a helicopter size LZ. Comparing an aircraft that is the first production model of its kind to a WWII fighter that was one of 50 similar aircraft built during the war is ridiculous.

    As far as cost, check out what other aircraft are costing. The CH-47, a 40 year old model, was bid at $10 Billion for 145 airframes. This for an aircraft that has been in service for 40 years, does nothing revolutionary, doesn’t have to meet NATOPS, and we already paid most of the development costs for it. The Osprey is expected to be $54 billion for 460 aircraft. The new HMX-1 birds were going to be $11 billion for 28 birds. Aircraft aren’t cheap, even when they are being modified from off the shelf types.

  • You know, I rapidly loose patience with those in the community who discount civilian input because they are not in uniform. Informed and interested civilians–even if they are pesky and ask annoying questions–are a force multiplier. That is what USNI is all about.

    In a perfect world, we’d all live in a place where we got total, unquestioning support for all we do. But, sadly, we live in a world where costs and benefits need to be weighed and–sacre bleu–debated. But, in life, and, far too often on this very blog, debates devolve down to clumsy attempts at intimidation.

    Me, I dare to read, think write, and blog. Don’t waste your time flinging insults. I’ve taken guff from the best. Impressive folks have, from time to time, called for my firing at my place of employment for stuff I’ve written. In my pre-blogging days, one of my first writing projects stomped on some toes and pretty much unraveled my grad school experience. My work has made me even go mano-a-mano with former Joint Chiefs, and despite it all, I still put my shingle out there and fight for what I think is the best defense of this country.

    Somehow far too many in the national security community today think it’s their right to intimidate, bully or just shout down those who “aren’t in the club.” I get so burned up at having to spend time reassuring the good people who email me saying “I’m not qualified to speak on defense matter X or issue Y” that, by god, if they are citizens of this country, they get a place in the debate. It’s their right. To me, it makes our country stronger if citizens–whatever their qualification–question things like defense procurement or strategy or, heck, just want to say something about the Navy’s PT uniforms. Questions might come from an informed observation or just be a basis for educating somebody who is simply…interested. That’s the USNI I know and love.

    And, even though it goes unstated, it is the obligation–in effect, the duty–of those who are in the services to listen, inform and educate those citizens who do dare ask. It’s what our democracy should be about. But And to me, those who do not subscribe to that duty, well, to be polite about it, it doesn’t align with my vision of patriotic behavior.

    Now, with that said, if anybody wants to debate the MV-22, be my guest. How many seats/and carrying capacity will get eaten up by the gun they want to cinch on this sucker?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Spring, nobody’s trying to intimidate anybody. But you discount the opinions of those who have the knowledge and operational experience when they tell you just what a leap of capability the MV-22 is over the CH-46 for the Marine Corps. In fact, above, you belittle the remarks of a staff officer who served with I MEF in a combat zone where neither the roads nor low altitude was a particularly fun place to be, as “the aesthetic needs” for a “spotless uniform”.

    You also think it a bit of sport for some Congressman to manufacture a witch hunt against a program that the Marines who matter most, the infantry, have been clamoring for going on a generation. Those of us who may have our lives and the lives of our Marines dependent on that capability are not nearly so amused. Like it or not, you AREN’T in that club.

    There are some glaring technical errors in your remarks, as well as a lack of understanding of tactics and doctrine. Do you expect those to go unchallenged? Or are you going to argue that you understand the principles of war, the planning and execution of vertical envelopment, or conducting amphibious assault better than those who have spent their lives learning such things?

    The courage to speak one’s mind is admirable. Nobody is saying it isn’t. But so is the courage to be the first one through the door of a fortified building. The two aren’t comparable. And it is the second kind of courage that matters most to those who see the MV-22 as such a leap forward.

    As for the duty of those in the service to listen and inform, methinks that is a two-way street. You have been given a lot of knowledge, answers, and insight in the above comments to your blog. It might be advisable to stop keying the handset.

  • RickWilmes

    In 1988, I had the opportunity to go to Air Borne school in Ft. Benning and than cruise on the Pelilieu from Guam to Pearl Harbor and than to Longbeach. While on the Pelilieu, I had the opportunity to fast rope out of a CH-46 onto the deck of the Pelilieu. One of the things I walked away with is that if there is a better way to get Marines or soldiers on the ground than by all means take that route. It sounds like the Osprey does that job. As a citizen and taxpayer, the Osprey is a program I am willing to support and pay for.

    Recently, the Oregon National Guard Chinooks were deployed to Afghanistan because they are the newer and lighter models so they can operate at a higher altitude. Several years ago an older model Chinook crashed on Mt. Hood during a mountain rescue. Some Oregonians were not happy about losing the helicopters. I say if we are going to be operating on Afghanistan than send the best and the Osprey is the answer than do it.

    Didn’t the Harrier program also have it’s detractors early on in it’s development? I think the same principles and tactics are being applied in this situation as well.

  • I don’t think anyone would seriously argue that the end of the Osprey program would mean that the Marines would be stuck with the ‘phrog for another 40 years.

    Cheney was right to try to kill it 15 years ago. It just costs too damn much. And as wonderful as the speed, range and altitude are, it isn’t that great when you consider the only escorts available are either too slow (Cobras) or too fast (Harriers). Sooner or later, they’ll have to operate in a hot LZ and it won’t be pretty.

    Let’s take a look at the advantage of speed, vs. say, a CH-47. Sure, it’ll get you there twice as fast. But it will only carry less than half the troops. One lift by 10 Chinooks will get the assault elements of an entire battalion on the ground. 10 Ospreys will get you about 2 rifle companies. As for range, the limiting factor won’t be so much the airlift birds so much as communications, escorts, and supporting fires. And altitude? A Chinook will get high enough to get you away from damn near all small arms fires. Anything sophisticated enough to target a Chinook at altitude would need just as much suppression for an Osprey force.

    The Marines, for whatever reasons, have made some awfully strange decisions in the helicopter procurement arena. What possessed them to pass on a Navalized Apache/Blackhawk team in favor of totally redesigning the 50 year old Huey design is beyond me. And I think they made a similar mistake in not embracing the Chinook back in the 80s/90s.

  • RickWilmes

    New technology always costs more. If the new concept is valid than what is wrong with paying the price for the new technology?

  • It depends. Which gives more value for the money? The Marines could have replaced their entire CH-46 fleet 20 years ago, and still had enough left over to replace the fleet today for what the V-22 program cost. The gap in capability would not have been severe, and the Marines and Navy would be better able to direct limited resources at other areas that need improvement.

    And I’m not entirely convinced the new concept is valid. Sure, the V-22 flies well, but does the disruption is causes across the spectrum of systems in the USMC make it worthwhile?

  • RickWilmes


    I see two issues here.

    1. Is the Osprey a valid concept? Defineatly a valid topic for discussion and debate.

    2. Replacing the CH-46. Twenty years ago, what would have replaced it. It is my understanding that at that time, given what the Marine Corps was asking for, the Osprey was the only solution offered.

  • Byron

    XBrad, I feel the same way about the LCS. Too much money, for so little return, with nebulous expectations.