Have Critics of the CV-22 Osprey Been Vindicated?

A fatal crash raises questions about the craft's dependability

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Skepticism about the military's CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor craft has been renewed after a deadly crash in southern Afghanistan. The Taliban took responsibility but NATO officials say the cause of the crash is not yet known. During its lengthy development, the Osprey was plagued by mechanical failures and exorbitant cost overruns. The futuristic craft can ascend like an airplane or lift off like a helicopter, but many claim it is highly vulnerable to enemy fire. Read what reporters and military buffs are saying about the craft after the jump.

  • A History of Failures, explains Steve Hynd at Newshoggers: "Ospreys have problems with fast descents of the kind needed in combat zones, being prone to a condition known as 'Vortex Ring State' which has been a cause of several crashes, three of which were fatal, during development. That condition means they must descent relatively slowly, making them more vulnerable to ground fire, or risk crashing. Observers have questioned whether the technology was mature enough for deployment, but the Marine Corps and Air Force were worried that the program would be shut down if it didn't show results - as Dick Cheney almost succeeded in doing in the Bush administration's first term."
  • Two Sides of Every Coin  Nathan Hodge at Wired interviews Richard Whittle, a guy who wrote the book on Ospreys, literally. He says the crash raises questions about the craft's reliability but certainly doesn't vindicate critics: “No one’s ever claimed the Osprey was invulnerable, and since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, the U.S. has lost more than 300 rotorcraft there and in Iraq from various causes in crashes that killed nearly 500 people... [However] if the cause was aerodynamic — if this Osprey lost its engines for some reason and was trying to autorotate to a landing, meaning float down on the cushion of lift even unpowered rotors can provide — then the critics who warned that this was a fatal weakness in the Osprey are going to be able to say ‘I told you so.’”
  • It Wasn't Made for Afghanistan  In a report to Congress, Christopher Bolkcom notes the reservations experts had about the air craft: "The Osprey's hypothetical contribution to the war in Afghanistan is questionable due to the high altitude of that country, and the Osprey's inability to improve greatly over helicopter performance in this area. Whatever commercial value a tilt-rotor aircraft might some day have for civil aviation, the V-22's value as a military system is insufficient to justify its cost in these times of budgetary constraints and higher priority defense needs."
  • Either Way, Don't Trust the Taliban's Claim, writes Laura King at The Los Angeles Times: "The Taliban claimed to have shot down the aircraft, but insurgents routinely issue such boasts whenever any Western plane or helicopter goes down."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.