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Osprey Ready To Get Dirtier: MG Kelly


Christian has a pungent update on the MV-22 Osprey over at Defense Tech. The core of it is that Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly, deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, thinks the plane is ready for prime time and has been thoroughly tested in Iraq. With the persistent rumors that Ospreys will be deployed to Afghanistan any day, this is all good grist for the mill.

Here's the story:

There are a couple more things from the MGen. Kelly interview that I wanted to throw out there for you all to ponder.

First, Kelly showered pretty high praise on the MV-22 Osprey in his theater. He added more to the "higher, farther, faster" argument that most proponents (and some reporters like yours truly) say about the bird, and took on the argument that the MV-22 wasn't really tested in the Iraq deployment -- namely because it wasn't dropping into hot LZs.

"When I got there there was some criticism that the airplane was untested and all that and that the Marines are protecting it and the commanders won't let it go into hot LZs," Kelly said. "Well, the fact is, you don't intentionally ever go into a hot LZ. If you go into a hot LZ knowingly, you're probably not playing smart baseball. ... Gen. Odierno and Gen. Petraeus fell in love with it ... because it zips around the way it does it was doing a lot more VIP lifting that I thought it should, so I took it out of the VIP business and got it dirty."

So this is the argument I was bandying around last year when I came back from Iraq (I spent a week with VMM-263 in the first ever Osprey deployment). Kelly understands the logic behind exchanging speed, altitude (and th ability to attain altitude very quickly) and reduced audio signature (he said the aircraft can come down rapidly from 9K feet to a vertical landing with a lot less noise than a CH-46 or 53) with .50cal machine guns. And he knows than when a commander can, he'll try to avoid a hot LZ every time because it ain't like a Phrog or a Shitter can do much better -- they'd be sitting ducks too.

And here's some more he said about the reliability argument:

"The availability numbers when I first got there hovered around 65 percent or so and by the time I left it was pretty standard at about 85 percent the Marines that fix and work on it understand what parts go sooner rather than later ... the young mechanics learned what needed to be done to keep it up, so I think it's fully tested."

This is a point I really can't shed any light on other than to say that maintainers I talked to in Iraq at the time said the down time for the Osprey wasn't any more than any other aircraft they'd maintained, and was much less than the 46. There were some problems with things going bad before expected and things not going bad that were expected to fail sooner (resulting in parts surpluses and shortages), but that's what you learn during a first deployment, right?

Kelly also partially answered the question of the Osprey's suitability in Afghanistan. He said the CH-46 can only carry about four passengers and crew in the summer and about 10 pax plus the crew in the winter. The 53 does well in Afghanistan, but is in short supply.

"The 46 is very, very limited in what it can do over there. That's why the 53 is so important over there, it's got the legs and it's got the power. But the V-22 will do it all."

I'm not sure why it's taken so long to deploy the MV-22 to Afghanistan, but I figure with the upcoming "surge" we'll see it buzzing the mountain tops pretty soon.

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