Friday, April 13, 2007

Flying albatross headed to Iraq

The Marines are sending the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey to Iraq.

I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, the Osprey isn't safe. It has some significant issues in the software that controls its rotors, and the dadburned things have crashed left, right, up, down, and every whichway. It's fundamentally unstable, and it's fundamentally unstable in a way that no other aircraft in the world is fundamentally unstable, meaning that none of the lessons learned with, say, the F-16, work with it.

On the other hand, the CH-46 Sea Knights that it replaces aren't safe either, for a totally different reason. The Sea Knights are slow fat targets for insurgents. The Osprey, on the other hand, is as fast as a normal prop airplane when it's in level flight, and as quiet as one too, unlike the choppers, which sound like freakin' egg beaters. Its IR signature is insignificant too, which gives IR missiles very little to aim at, and it flys too high and fast for bullets and RPG's to hit. Not to mention that the Osprey has a much longer range than any helicopter, giving the Marines a level of operational mobility that previously was not available.

In the end, given the reality that this thing is going to be used in combat and the chances of it falling out of the sky are probably less than the chances of the Sea Knights getting shot down, I gotta agree with the USMC's decision to deploy. Yeah, it's a risk. But it's not a risk that's avoidable. At least this way when the damned thing crashes, maybe the geeks in the software lab can figure out what the fuck happened and fixed it. When a Sea Knight crashes and kills everybody on board, nobody learns a thing other than that Sea Knights are sitting ducks for insurgents. Doh. Like we didn't already know that...

-- Badtux the Aviation Penguin


  1. also, after five years of hard use the sea knights are wearing out faster than they can be replaced. i don't know what to think about this one. it worries the hell out of me. it won't make a difference in bagdhad but in al-anbar and in kurdistan it might work. (the "might" includes that they learned how to fly the bitch)

  2. The Sea Knights haven't been made since the Vietnam War (last one came off the lines in 1971), but you're correct, they're wearing out faster than they can be refurbished. Sand doesn't do good things to turbine engines.

    Same is true of far too many military systems. Our current military was not designed to fight an extended war of attrition during an extended occupation of a foreign land. It was designed to destroy real threats to the world (i.e., foreign militaries that are capable of invading other countries), not insurgencies, which by their very nature are incapable of invading a foreign nation (since an insurgency is dependent upon the forebearance of the local population in order to operate, and thus is literally a fish out of water if it attempts to conduct operations in a foreign land).

    As for the Marines "learning how to fly the bitch", I investigated that issue and the main problem is that the Osprey doesn't fly like anything else on the planet. The transition between level flight and hovering mode is especially problematic, and no amount of "learning how to fly" is going to make it less problematic. They "fixed" that problem by adding computers and software instead to handle that transition in the latest redesign, the computer also handles hovering type flight and pretends to be a helicopter via a "fly by wire" system to help make it easier to fly for Maroons. The problem is that this isn't like anything else on the planet, and so the software is boldly going where nobody has taken software before, and it still has bugs that have caused Ospreys to make hard landings multiple times over the past year.

    But my suspicion is that the Marines just don't have a choice at this point. The Phrogs are literally falling out of the sky, whether from maintenance issues or from insurgents learning how to shoot them down. So like the P-38 Lightning, which was the only long-range fighter in the R&D pipeline at actual prototype stage on December 7 1941, there's no choice but to rush a buggy warplane into production and hope that the bugs can be worked out before too many people die from them...

  3. Whatever, it's just a bunch of monkeys fucking around. American monkeys, Iraqi monkeys, killing each other. I'm past caring who gets killed on either side as long as they kill each other because that makes less of them.

    Stupid is fucking stupid anyway you look at it, and both sides are fucking stupid. Just saying.

  4. Hey, badtux, they've been testing the things around here a lot, and they are beautiful when they fly - even if they are dangerous. Whenever I see one in flight, I usually pull over (if I'm driving) and watch how well the pilots (and now computers) do with the transition between helicopter and plane.

    I'm just sad that we need to rush the development of these aircraft. And, I think our military structures/systems are out of date and have been since WW2.


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