MILITARY | UTILITY
The V-22 Osprey’s first operational deployment is justifying the confidence U.S, Marine Corps leaders have placed in that tilt-rotor troop transport, a top Marine general said.
The deputy Marine commandant for aviation, Gen. George Trautman, appeared at a May 2 Pentagon briefing with members of the first squadron to deploy with the Bell Helicopter/Boeing Osprey, Marine Medium Tilt-rotor Sqdn 263 or VMM-263. That unit in April ended a seven-month deployment to Iraq. A second squadron, VMM-162, began operating 12 Ospreys left by VMM-263 at Al Asad Air Base, about 85 nm (160 km) northwest of Baghdad, in late April.
VMM-263’s commander, Lt. Col. Paul Rock, said his squadron flew 2,500 sorties in Iraq and used each Osprey about 62 hr a month, much better than the pre-deployment goal of 50 hr. The readiness rate was about 70 percent, "more than sufficient to meet our tasks."
Osprey pilots reported only two instances of being fired on, once by small arms, once by rocket. No battle damage was suffered. Rock said the V-22’s ability to exit landing zones and gain altitude quickly also may have contributed to the lack of hostile fire incidents.
Missions flown included raids delivering infantry looking for insurgents and "Aeroscout" operations, armed aerial patrols flown by a mix of V-22s, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
The squadron’s Ospreys required 9.5 maintenance hours per flight hour in Iraq. Trautman said that compared to 24 per flight hour for the Boeing CH-46E the V-22 is replacing. The squadron’s mechanics were backed up by 14 field-service representatives from Bell and Boeing. Rolls-Royce, maker of the Osprey’s 6,150-shp AE1107C turboshaft engines, sent a field service representative to Al Asad, too.
Iraq’s sand proved less damaging to the high-flying V-22’s rotors and engines than it has been to those of helicopters operating over the desert, but it caused problems with the Osprey’s slip rings, which distribute electricity to its rotor heads and power its blade-fold mechanism and vibration sensors. — Richard Whittle