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By Staff Writer | June 1, 2004

PR Garbage?

I would think a magazine called Rotor & Wing would research facts rather than repeating public-relations garbage such as this: "However, the capability that the Osprey brings to the battlefield—twice the speed, three times the payload, and six times the range of a conventional helicopter, with the ability to self-deploy—does interest Schoomaker." ("Vertical Envelopment," March 2004, page 28.)

Compared to a similar-sized helicopter like the 20-year-old CH-53E (which weighs a bit less empty), the V-22 has about 20 percent more speed at the standard low-level flight profile of 300 ft. AGL. It carries one-third the payload (about 9,000 lbs), not three times more, and has about the same range. It cannot self-deploy to Europe and has never demonstrated that, even with one air refuel, because it cannot safely fly above 10,000 ft. (Its cabin is not pressurized, and is only partially heated.) It also costs about four times more than modern medium-lift helicopters on the market like the S-92 and EH-101.

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Carlton Meyer
Richmond, California

John R. Guardiano responds:

The analysis by Mr. Meyer, a vocal critic of the V-22, is misleading. The V-22 and the CH-53E are not comparable helicopters. The V-22 is a medium-sized troop transport. The CH-53E is a heavy-lift rotorcraft. Obviously, the CH-53E has greater payload capability.

What I did report is that the Osprey has twice the speed, three times the payload, and six times the range of a conventional helicopter. A similar-sized conventional helo would be the CH-46E, which the Osprey is replacing. The V-22 program says this performance was confirmed by operational evaluation testing four years ago. This explains why the U.S. Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, expressed interest in the V-22.

There is no standard low-level flight profile of 300 ft. AGL for the Osprey. Its unique performance capabilities—including the ability to fly as an airplane—enable it to employ flight profiles that are quite different from any conventional helicopter.

As for speed, according to the Marine Corps, the CH-53E has a standard operational cruise speed of 120-130 kt. The comparable speed for the V-22 is 240-260 kt.

But again, Schoomaker's point, as reported in my piece, was not to compare the V-22 with the CH-53E. It was instead to show that a heavy-lift tilt-rotor promises analogous increases in speed, range and payload vis-�-vis a comparable heavy-lift helicopter.

Flying above 10,000 ft. is not a precondition to self-deploying. The Osprey can self-deploy by flying below 10,000 ft. Higher altitude flights are possible if the pilots have oxygen masks. This in fact has been done, according to the V-22 program manager, U.S. Air Force Col. Craig Olson. If the V-22 has passengers onboard, then obviously it must fly below 10,000 ft.

As for cost, yes, the V-22 is expensive. This is not an issue I addressed in the article. However, according to the V-22 program office, the Lot 7 Osprey cost $72.6 million each. If you add on research, development, testing and evaluation expenses, then the cost is $115 million, they said. The program office is aiming to reduce the unit flyaway cost to $58 million in Fiscal 2010.

Scandals, Lies and Helicopters

As a Canadian reader, I've been very appreciative of Giovanni de Briganti's in-depth coverage of my nation's tortured efforts to field new maritime helicopters ("Loonie Tunes," April 2004, page 57). However, his posit that the continuing cause of delay comes from the military making a political stand based on principle is unlikely. Recent scandals here reveal that corruption and kickback seem to have permeated most of our federal government departments to the highest level. Sadly, the decision on which new machine we get may be based not on product or price but on how well procurement officers get treated. Aviation manufacturers and suppliers take note! Canadian taxpayers, tired of 10 years of Liberal Party rule by majority and malfeasance, have, and are eagerly awaiting the chance to install honest politicians genuinely concerned with giving our troops the best gear possible.

John A. Gayder
St.Catharines, Ontario

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