Our old friend the semi-retired Rick Whittle had a chance to peek behind the curtain raised by VMM-263 recently and he filed this report currently running in the headlines at Military.com.Here are a few highlights from Rick's story:
So far, the Osprey has defied the dire predictions of its most severe critics. Citing the V-22's record of four crashes and 30 deaths in test flights prior to 2001, some foes of the tiltrotor forecast more crashes and deaths in Iraq.Even one of the usual suspects, Phil Coyle, was uncharacteristically sanguine about the V-22's performance to date:
As of Dec. 28, three months through a scheduled seven-month deployment, the 23 pilots of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, known as VMM-263, had logged 1,639 hours of flight time in Iraq, carried 6,826 passengers and delivered 631,837 pounds of cargo without a mishap or even a close call.
Headquartered at Al Asad, an isolated air base in the desert about 110 miles west of Baghdad, VMM-263's Ospreys spent their first two months in Iraq largely flying "general support" missions - hauling troops and supplies to and from forward operating bases.
"As long as they keep using it like a truck, I think they'll probably be okay," said Philip Coyle, a former Pentagon weapons testing director and a longtime Osprey critic.
The article mentions the various missions that "Thunder Chicken" aircraft have been involved in, including an ersatz combat mission called "aeroscout."
While one could argue that the 50 percent FMC rate that skipper Rock throws out in passing is a scary stat, the other data looks promising. Also no mishaps are better than some mishaps. In any case, we'll reserve judgement until Christian has a chance to take a firsthand look in a few weeks.