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Take it from this Marine aviator: The Osprey is worth every penny

November 20, 2007  By Col. Glenn Walters

Nov. 20, 2007, Escondido, Calif. - Unlike most of the V-22 critics, I have actually flown the MV-22 Osprey.

mv22Nov. 20, 2007, Escondido, Calif. – Unlike most of the V-22 critics, I have actually flown the MV-22 Osprey.

I flew hundreds of hours in this remarkable aircraft when I commanded the Marine Corps' test and evaluation squadron from 2003 to 2006, and I am obliged to tell the truth.

The truth is the Osprey is the most thoroughly tested aircraft in the history of aviation for one fundamental reason: the safety of its passengers. Our nation expects the military to use the best engineered, maintained and operated equipment available. Our troops deserve it.

The Osprey we are flying today is just that. Critics say we haven't flown the Osprey in the desert. Not true.


My squadron flew in desert environments on multiple occasions, totaling months of tests. The squadron now in Iraq completed several desert training periods prior to deploying. In fact, we just had another squadron of MV-22s in California and Arizona doing more of the same.

Not only can the Ospreys fly in the desert, the aircraft's advanced technology makes it easier than in any other rotorcraft to land in brownout conditions. Other critics point out that the MV-22 does not have a forward-firing weapon, but none puts this in context: No medium or heavy-lift aircraft in the U.S. inventory has a forward-firing weapon. MV-22s flying in Iraq have ramp-mounted machine guns, which have become the standard on our aircraft in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, based on the threat.

That, and the inherent capabilities of the aircraft (range, speed and altitude), give the MV-22 the ability to reduce susceptibility and vulnerability to many threats. The MV-22 has limited visibility through the cabin windows, much like the CH-46 and the CH-53E, but what most critics do not know is that the troop commander, who rides in the back of the Osprey, has unparalleled situational awareness from the onboard precision navigation system, with moving maps and a significant communications capability.

These capabilities are not an option in existing Marine Corps aircraft. The MV-22 is the most maneuverable medium-lift assault support platform in the world.

Conventional helicopters are limited to standard rotary wing tactics and airspeeds, while the MV-22 has the ability to fly like a turboprop airplane as well as a conventional helicopter. As an airplane, it can climb or descend at a significantly faster rate than any helicopter and transit at much higher speeds. Vortex Ring State is a phenomenon experienced by all rotorcraft – not just the Osprey.

While the MV-22 is the only aircraft with a warning system that alerts pilots to VRS conditions, it is the least susceptible to this phenomenon. To argue whether the aircraft is worth the money spent is an unending debate.

To the injured Marine or soldier whose life is saved due to the unparalleled capabilities of the MV-22, I would posit that the aircraft is worth every penny.

Col. Glenn Walters heads the Marine Corps' aviation plans section in the Pentagon and previously commanded Marine Tiltrotor Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 22 (VMX-22). He wrote this essay for the North County Times of Escondido, Calif.


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