Monday, October 24, 2011

Osprey Launch

The V-22 Osprey is a unique bird. The tiltrotor concept has been proposed and built as experimental and prototype aircraft many times before. Each attempt failed to make it into production.

The Osprey seemed doomed to follow that pattern, but the persistence of the Marine Corps saw the aircraft through a 25 year development period, with a major expenditure in dollars and three accidents with many lives lost.

But in the end the Corps got the vehicle it wanted. With the ability to take-off, hover and land like a helicopter, but fly at speeds much faster than a rotary-wing aircraft, it began combat operations in 2007.

According to reports, the pilots and crews love it. But it is maintenance heavy, so the follow-on order may be cancelled for budgetary reasons. This is also hand-in-hand with a major reevaluation of the purpose of the Marines since amphibious operations in contested environments are seemingly less likely than in the past.

The Corps would argue that elevates the need for the MV-22s, but we'll see if that angle carries any weight.

Nevertheless, it is a fascinating aircraft to watch. This shot, taken from the hangar at MCAS Miramar during this year's ISAP convention in San Diego, shows the CAG bird from HMM-166 "Sea Elks" hovering after take-off from the squadron ramp. Notice the heat exhaust blowing down from the engine nacelles. That's a lot of blast to deal with, but deal with it they do. It's an odd looking thing in the air, as we shall see in a subsequent post, but it is here, it is operational and it is performing as advertised.

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