Will the Army Ever Buy the V-22 Osprey?

Osprey3On a rainy day in Paris earlier this year, the Marine Corps officer who oversees the V-22 Osprey program talked about the aircraft’s rising international demand.

More than a few countries are lining up to buy the tilt-rotor aircraft, which takes off and lands like a helicopter and flies like a plane, Col. Greg Masiello said during a June 17 press conference with reporters at the Paris Air Show. He didn’t specify which, though the Defense Department has already said Israel will be the first.

International sales of the V-22, made by a joint venture between Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter unit and Boeing Co., may eventually reach more than 100 aircraft, Masiello said. That’s on top of the U.S. military’s planned purchase of 458 Ospreys, including 360 for the Marine Corps, 50 for the Air Force and 48 for the Navy, he said.

The Army, however, still doesn’t plan to buy any.

The largest military service actually began development of the vertical-lift program that led to the V-22 in the early 1980s. It officially dropped out several years later to build a new stealthy helicopter called Comanche. When that program was cancelled after an investment of several billion dollars, it bought conventional utility, cargo and attack helicopters such as the UH-60 Black Hawk, CH-47 Chinook and AH-64 Apache.

While the Army has a checkered history in developing new choppers after the Vietnam War, the existing fleet of rotorcraft helped the service survive the past decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Richard Whittle, author of the book, “The Dream Machine: The Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey.”

“They’ve needed every Black Hawk and CH-47 and OH-58 they could get their hands on,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s been a very intensive decade for Army rotorcraft. So their money has gone further than it would have, frankly, if they were buying V-22s.”

As the wars wound down, the service began rethinking its aviation strategy. It now plans to ramp up spending on a new vertical-lift development program.

The Army over the next five years plans to spend $463 million on advanced aviation technology, mostly for a program called the Joint Multi-Role, or JMR, Aircraft Demonstrator, to initially design next-generation replacements for the medium-sized transport and attack helicopters, according to Pentagon budget documents. Spending would rise from $81 million in fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1, to $102 million in fiscal 2018, the documents show.

Textron’s Bell, AVX Aircraft Co. and a joint venture of Boeing Co. and United Technologies Corp.’s Sikorsky Aircraft, have already submitted designs. The Army wants a flying prototype by 2017.

But it’s not clear whether the service is fully committed to the effort.

“Next-gen research programs have the same function in the Army bureaucracy as creating commissions on Capitol Hill — it’s their way of kicking ideas down the road,” said Loren Thompson, chief executive officer of Source Associates, a for-profit defense consultancy, who has written favorably of the V-22 program.

So why doesn’t the Army just buy the Osprey, which is already in production?

With 214 of the aircraft operating in the U.S. fleet, the V-22 flies faster and farther than conventional helicopters.

The Osprey has a top speed of more than 300 miles per hour – comparable to that of a turbo-prop plane – and a range of more than 1,000 miles. By comparison, the medium-left helicopter it’s replacing, the Corps’ CH-46 Sea Knight, has a top speed of 166 miles per hour and a range of 633 miles.

During the past decade, the U.S. military flew the V-22 extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To highlight the rotorcraft’s effectiveness in combat, Masiello told a story about a mission in Afghanistan in 2010. More than 30 coalition troops were trapped after their CH-47 Chinook crashed from enemy fire, he said. Two Ospreys from Kandahar were dispatched to rescue the personnel, flying hundreds of miles in bad weather as high as 15,000 feet over mountaintops, he said.

“You could not do that with any other aircraft,” he said.

A pair of V-22s was used similarly in Libya in 2011 to rescue an Air Force fighter pilot whose F-15E crashed near Benghazi during a coalition mission to oust Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Critics have questioned the aircraft’s safety record. Three dozen people have died in seven Osprey accidents, mostly during development testing, according to published reports. When an Air Force V-22 went down during a mission in Afghanistan in 2011, four of the 20 passengers were killed. Service members at one time called it, “The Widow-Maker.”

Yet cost, not safety, is likely the biggest issue for the Army. The Osprey costs about $70 million apiece, more than triple that of a Black Hawk. Even if the V-22 boasts cheaper costs per passenger, its price tag is simply too high for the service, which is downsizing due in part to budget cuts.

The Osprey also isn’t necessarily designed for Army-specific missions. For example, its cargo cabin isn’t wide enough to carry a Humvee or the service’s future light-duty truck known as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV.

“The V-22 is just the first production tilt-rotor,” Whittle, the author, said in a telephone interview. “Essentially, it’s 1980s technology.

“I don’t think the Army will end up buying the V-22,” he added. “It’s expensive. It’s complicated. It has disadvantages for their mission. But I think it’s very likely that the Army will buy a tilt-rotor of some kind.”

United Technologies’ Sikorsky has already begun building a light tactical helicopter with coaxial rotors and a pusher-prop called S-97 Raider for the service’s Armed Aerial Scout program to replace the OH-58 Kiowa. The effort may be the Army’s only new aviation acquisition to receive continued funding.

Textron’s Bell is developing the V-280 Valor for the medium Joint Multi-Role demonstrator aircraft.

And Karem Aircraft Inc., founded by Abraham Karem, who designed the early MQ-1 Predator drone and A-160 Hummingbird unmanned helicopter, is developing a larger, “optimum speed” tilt-rotor capable of carrying an M2 Bradley or Stryker armored infantry vehicle.

The tilt-rotor concept is still the most “elegant solution” to the basic aerodynamic problem of combining two kinds of thrust – vertical and horizontal – to avoid the need for a runway, Whittle said. “The V-22 is an ugly duckling that turned into a swan. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get something better now because technology advances so rapidly.”

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • You know how much they love working together/using the same equipment.

    • fuzznose

      it’s no different than the Air Force having the F-15 Eagle and the Navy having the F-14 Tomcat. Different mission requirements. The F-14 was designed for interceptor, while the F-15 was more of a mission support fighter. The F-15 wasn’t designed to land on a carrier, and most Air Force pilots couldn’t have done so, even if it were, without extensive training. Trying to land on a postage stamp that’s in constant motion in the middle of the ocean at night is one of the most stressful things a pilot can do.

    • blight_

      Different needs, different equipment. Sea Knight and Sea Stallion/Super Stallion vs Blackhawk and Chinook (though the Navy does use the UH-60 in the form of the Seahawk).

    • Musson

      The problem is that the Army could only fly the Osprey when the wing was rotated upwards. As soon as the wing is straighted for level flight – an Air Force pilot has to take over the controls!


    • mi1400

      Isnt it a little dishonest review… !?!
      CH-53K The K is slightly larger than V-22, but carry 5x payload, has greater range. Although V-22 has 30% more cruise speed, all Marines favor ending V-22 to buy more 53Ks. The helicopter will also be configured with Directional Infrared Countermeasures, or DIRCM, a high-tech laser-jammer designed to throw incoming missiles off course. to lift 27,000 pounds, to 110 nautical miles, stay 30 min on station and return to ship under high hot conditions. today the best “Echo” class can do is 9,000 pounds. Reports in late 2009 stated that Israel favored the Sikorsky CH-53K. In 2011, Israel expressed a new interest in the V-22 to support special operations and in search & rescue operations.

    • David Smith

      The Army has never found a more tactfully and logistically sound tool like the Chinook. I crewed the C Model in 1972-73 and the old girl is still flying today. That kind of service has never been heard of since the C47 (DC3). I still love to go on base and just look at the old girl. Brings back memories. But if this new tilt rotor will haul a Tank, at respectable speeds, then maybe the CH47’s time will come to an end.

  • Jeff

    I don’t think the Army wants the V-22. The biggest issue would be the need and lack of escort that can keep up. The interest by the Army in this technology isn’t speed or range it’s the potential for greater lift capacity. Karem has drawn the same conclusion. Speed and range are efficiency boosts but the potential for bring in armor more easily expands capability.

  • Jeff

    I don’t think the Army wants the V-22. The biggest issue would be the need and lack of escort that can keep up. The interest by the Army in this technology isn’t speed or range it’s the potential for greater lift capacity. Karem has drawn the same conclusion. Speed and range are efficiency boosts but the potential for bring in armor more easily expands capability.

  • Israel will ‘buy’ the V-22? Israel does not ‘buy’ military equipment the US taxpayer GIVES the stuff to them in order to subsidize the defense industry.

    The H-60 airframe works fine. The UH-60M works. Tested technology and not silver bullets win wars.

  • Chris

    Get the A-10 instead….

  • JCross

    From the Army’s perspective, what exactly is gained by buying the V-22 in the short term? It’s simply to expensive and large to replace the UH-60 fleets. And while faster, and sporting superior range, it offers substantially reduced payload compared to the CH-47; while still costing twice as much and being a larger, heavier vehicle. It’d also be short term, as both of those are to be replaced by the JMR derivatives. It should also be noted that JMR has a very good chance of not being tiltrotor either, so right now there doesn’t appear to be any actual reason for the Army to invest in the Osprey.

  • George Babbitt

    Congrats Israel, enjoy that hardware that you can be the first to buy from us with our money.

    • FriedFish

      Better Israel than the Pakistanis…

  • Dtyn

    The army tends to be dysfunctional in this area. Witness Comanche . 15 years of changing design spending 3b and to come away with nothing but complaints about the v22 not fitting the mission. Now that is arrogance on all parts and a failure in leadership. And the comments here are right off the official army handbook. I think they could serve us better by decreasing the army budget by half . They end up being policeman in country anyway.

    • Carl

      Yup, these Army “policeman” pulled 12-15 month deployments in OIF & OEF when all the other services were doing 6-7 month tours. And geee, let’s look at the number of MoH recipients….arn’t most of them Soldiers?

      The U.S. Army has carried the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on their backs and without these “policeman,” as you call them, we would have been up that proverbial creek without a paddle.

    • “The army tends to be dysfunctional in this area.” I thought you were joking until I saw the rest of your ignorant post.

      You do realize that all but one helicopter in operation today in US service started out as an Army program? The Army’s “dysfunction” includes the Huey, Cobra, Cayuse/Little Bird, Kiowa, Chinook, Apache and Blackhawk. WHO has a better record?

      BTW, the V22 is turning out to be a great bird. It’s development in many ways was a poster child of dysfunction which is why it has so many haters today despite it’s pretty sound service. You shouldn’t throw stones when you’re in a glass house.

      • blight_

        Plus the prototypes, including the rightly-terminated Cheyenne. (Amusingly, the Comanche fell right into the Cheyenne’s trap…talk about not learning from mistakes)

      • Always wondered why the marines could not use the H-60 when the army, navy, air force, coast guard and even the marines themselves (the VH-60) use it?

        The MH-60K in the DAP configuration is a very effective gunship. And the AH-64 has been operated from ships in the past.

  • PHP

    Just the Maintence and up keep make no sense in todays environment for the Army. Not cost effective. We always prepare for the Last War…

  • jamesb

    Is this piece an ad for the MV-22?

    The a/c does NOT fit the Army’s needs…

    • Perry

      It don’t fit the Marines needs either, just ask anyone on a MEU. They are broke down half the time and only fly in great weather.

  • jamesb

    Oh, and it cost ‘s to darn much ….

  • Guest

    Yes, of course, the Israelis get the Osprey thanks to US Taxpayers, while the US Army
    does without. Our US Congress is the Best Congress that $$$ can Buy but that’s another Story.

    In the mean time, if a another War breaks out in the Middle East, the US Military will be expected to do the fighting while the Israelis watch on TV.

    • Joe

      And yet, the U.S. has no problem paying $8 Billion a year for the defense of Germany; which includes a large contingent U.S. personnel. Yet the Germans never get mentioned, only Israel.

      Bias much?

      • SJE

        Thats bogus.

        We spent billions on the bases, but they are not there for the protection of Germany. They are effectively US bases for any actions in Eastern Europe or the Middle East. When our troops are injured in Iraq, they are flown to Germany. We do have bases in the Middle East, but they are vulnerable to politics and terrorism. Better to keep the good bases in Germany.

        The same could be said around the world. The USA has huge submarine communication and tracking facilities on the NW Cape of Western Australia. They are there because thats a good spot to monitor the entire Indian Ocean, and the Australians are good allies that are happy to host. Its not there for the defense of Australia, and most of the security is Australian.

        Likewise, Okinawa is not about protecting a small island that has negligable economic value to Japan, but a base for action in East Asia, and sending a message to China, NK, and Russia.

  • Jacob

    So, are tiltrotors looking likely to replace helicopters in the distant future? Or are they simply going to be used for niche roles like search and rescue where you have to get somewhere and get there fast?

    • blight_

      Hard to say. Once tiltrotors get a foot in the door, more design work may eventually attenuate the weaknesses of the design.

      Look at the first helicopters, and compare them to the vehicles we have today.

    • Tim

      And one must hope those rescued are on a concrete pad so the V-22 can safely land. Does anyone know they built concrete pads in the NTA on Okinawa for the V-22s so they wouldn’t set the area ablaze or sink in the mud.

    • JCross

      Unsure, several tiltrotor designs are still on the drawing board. However, there has been a huge surge in compound helicopters, and JMR is going to be huge here. JMR is turning into a competition between tiltrotors and compounds, with 2 of each type in development.

  • moondawg

    Osprey is a fixed wing aircraft. The AF does not want the Army flying effective fixed wing aircraft. They get jealous. The Mohawk comes to mind.

  • jamesb

    Amen moondawg……

  • John

    …Back on the subject of the V-22 Osprey, so this thing is already maintenance intensive two years into it what’s it going to be like 5 or 10 years from now?
    What’s the mission capable rate going to be in 2023?

  • Peter

    Israel is your greatest ally in the region. Israel has treated it’s Muslim neighbours far better than they treated it. Your other ally in the region is Saudi Arabia. Just compare they’re human rights record, theyre “The US must do something” attitude and ask who should get support from the US. As I’m from the UK I constantly wonder that with all the defence hardware that we, and you, have sold to Saudi why do they never actaully do anything?

    Ah, that’s all badly worded but I do get a bit sick of some the anti-Israeli comments on here. You support your allies. Full stop. That’s what you do.

  • hibeam

    Can you build a version without the vertical take off and landing feature? — The Army

    • blight_

      Air Force: “Can’t have this”

      • Would not surprise me if this became the new C27J fiasco as the Air Force meddles with the Army doing anything in the air.

  • Having been a UH-1H crewchief in the Army (and a powerplant mech on the A-6 and E-2 in the Navy) I have wondered about the maintenance and cost of same on the V-22. There are a lot more moving parts on that aircraft than there are on a helicopter. Also the Army tends to see things differently than the other services. The mind set being that if the mission is short range and tactical you need a helicopter and the Army has plenty (the Army see’s itself as the “helicopter experts” in the U.S. military), if the mission is long range you need a C-130 or C-17 and the Air Force has plenty.

  • ajerusalem

    Though it isn’t ideal, you have to wonder if the Joint Multi Role program is really going to come through. Compared to the Army’s track record of developing new rotorcraft, the V-22 is pretty proven. If we developed the V22 into a multi-role rotorcraft with some Hind-like capabilities (underbelly gun turret, side mounted cannon or rocket pods, harvest hawk like modular payloads) and spent the money we would spend on JMR on it and the S97, I have a hard time seeing how that would not be a very capable and relatively cost effective rotorcraft fleet for the forseeable future.

  • wtpworrier

    I hope the Army never buy this thing, I don’t think it’s been properly….tested, and it’s too dangerous.

  • Alan

    The V-22 was an Army program, and the Army reconfirmed that tiltrotors don’t work, as explained here: http://www.g2mil.com/tiltrotors.htm

    Tiltrotors are a failed concept because they are only half as efficient as a helicopter and also half as efficient as an airplane. They do not have the payload or range of a similar-sized helicopter or an airplane

  • Perry

    No airline has expressed interest in the V-22, and Boeing didn’t try to sell them after it failed an FAA safety review. Bell dumped its civilian tiltrotor program on the Italians. After two decades, they’ve been unable to sucker anyone to buy them. A few months ago, Hagel went to Israel and demanded they devote some of their US military aid credits to buy some V-22s, which they have resisted. It seems they bribed the sheiks in the UAE to buy some toys. But no serious military wants this junk. Just look up H-60 and H-47 and see dozens of foreign buyers. Having three Marine V-22s destroyed in accidents this year hasn’t helped.

    • tiger

      The loss record of the H-60 &47 out number the V-22 by far. Sales of the AW-609 are on hold till certification. Many cutting edge planes face issues.

  • Like everything else, technology needs to be updated or it will become useless. The V=22 cocept will likely be improved over time to make it better as it goes along. The V-280 might be that answer. I would suggest that the Army get its feet wet and buy a brigade or two of the V-22s, and apply them to fill the missions that can’t be done with other aircraft.

  • Jenny

    Golly, just a few more years to perfect tiltrotors:

    In 1959 the United States Army, Navy and Air Force began work on the development of a prototype V/STOL aircraft that could augment helicopters in transport-type missions. Specifically they were interested in designs with longer range and higher speeds than existing helicopters, in order to support operations over longer distances, or in the case of the United States Marine Corps, from further offshore. On 27 January 1961, a series of DOD actions resulted in an agreement where all of the military arms would work on such a project under the overall leadership of the Navy’s Bureau of Naval Weapons (BuWeps), the Tri-Service Assault Transport Program.

  • Tim

    During testing the aircraft’s cross-linked drive shaft proved to be its Achilles heel. The shaft resulted in excessive vibration and noise, resulting in a high pilot workload. Additionally, it proved susceptible to problems due to wing flexing. Shaft problems, along with operator errors, resulted in a number of hard landings causing damage. One crash occurred as a result of a failure of the drive shaft to the tail rotor, causing three fatalities. One of the limitations found in the aircraft was an instability between wing angles of 35 and 80 degrees, encountered at extremely low altitudes. There were also high side forces which resulted from yaw and weak propeller blade pitch angle controls.

    Think about it. Your rotors are at max power, but their downwash is pounding your wings. And your engine exhaust is pointed downward, setting grass fires, warping steel decks, melting asphalt, and burning ground crews.

    • Guest

      …and one well placed bullet turns the whole thing into a piece of junk—a burning wreck which no one aboard would survive. Recall that we lost over 5,000 Hueys in Vietnam.

  • C. Powell

    Lord I hope the Army doesn’t buy it. Should have been named the V-22 Albatross.

  • hibeam

    The Army will not be allowed to buy these. That will free up money for free phones.

  • Vsshooter

    The Army needs to take over the A-10 Warthog since the Air Force wants to get out of the close air support roll.

  • Onejetjock
  • ColdWarVet75

    Being a former Marine, I can say this. It seems the Marines take the “we can do everything with nothing” to the extreme. The Corps is the only branch to not use the H-60, but instead uses the UH-1. They are retiring the CH-46 and still use the AH-1 instead of the Apache. It costs big bucks to train mechanics for multiple copters. I know an issue is size when it comes to ships, but the Navy use the Blackhawk as does the Coast Guard. This is where you need a hard corporate CEO to be SecDef who can make tough cuts and set the JCOS on the narrow road instead of caving to each branche’s petty wish list.

  • Bill Alves

    What a piece of junk. The Army would have to be crazy to buy that junk. As far as
    Isarel goes, there not buying anything — we are giving it to them for nothing. As far
    as the Marine Corp goes maybe it’s time to mothball the whole Marin Corp. We have
    a professional Army – It’s time to get rid of the Marine Corp and save lots of bucks.
    The Marines have a proud history but like Truman said, “They have a Publicity Machine
    that is better than Hollywood”. Reduce the Marine Corp by 80 or 90 percent active
    duty and have a strong cadre of Reserve. During times of crisis the Reserves can
    be recalled and train new Marine replacements. Sorry I got off on the wrong tract
    here – but I simply don’t trust any Marine Colonel telling me the Osprey is a good

  • TonyC.

    V-22 was a purpose built airframe for the US Marines. It does what THEY want it to do and it does THAT well. I doubt the V-22 can be a serious contender to replace the utility airframes in the US Army. I think the US Army needs to field a large number of cheaper airframes due to the cost of battle losses and needs in the theater. More helicopters will be their requirement.

  • Vexorg

    If you want to see a history of Army Aviation fraud, waste, and abuse…just stop on by the Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Alabama. So many rotary wing aircraft and the first tilt wing aircraft that failed the various test stages. One has to wonder WHO got kickbacks and bribes for the multitude of programs…at the cost of trained aviators and soldiers that these designs were supposed to support.

    One has to ponder WHY we need to have different aircraft for each branch of service, when there have been aircraft that fit the needs of ALL the branches of services mission profiles. I can understand why the Navy/Marine Corps need a different designed fixed wing aircraft, due to the stress of carrier landings vs. fixed base landings for the Air Force. But, as far as rotary wing goes, it appears the Blackhawk UH-60 is a fine multiservice/multi mission helicopter that fits the bill. IF the services could get with manufacturers for an all purpose aircraft, either fixed/rotary/tilt wing, the savings in the logistical chain of support would benefit not only the services, but the taxpayers as well.

  • Lance

    Don’t see the need for the Army to have V-22s. The army unlike the USMC doesn’t do much distance flying and flying from ships. Most is small utility ops and or troop deployment so high speed or long range isn’t a factor for most Army missions. Think the author has a love affaire with the Osprey and wish every one would love it. Its not meant for every service and to do away from helicopters completely.

  • ChrisB
  • donald roberts

    While the Osprey is an expensive project, I see the potential for it to return several times its cost in sales to other countries. Sales to any one of those countries could equal the $70,000,000 spent on building it.

  • It’s simply a numbers game in the end. Army Aviation OPTEMPO and operating environment doesn’t lend itself I think to the V-22. I haven’t seen any reports on how the Osprey does on Nap of the Earth or Terrain flight. Also, like it or not, the Army because of it’s operating environment takes a good deal of loss of aircraft. Witness Vietnam, UH-1 losses ALONE numbered around 3,000 airframes. So what they need are lots of easy to maintain, proven models that are relatively cheap to procure and maintain. In the end, the Comanche just didn’t seem to fit that criteria, and didn’t have enough added value to continue, was overbudget and timeline and didn’t have much of a niche after the Soviet Union collapsed to justify it. They could have continued and made a few airframes that would sit out there and probably never really be used (like the F-22). Killing it also freed up a LOT of money that was needed elsewhere, and wasn’t a total loss as their was technological gains that have been/will be used in the future.

    So in the end, overall, the Army just doesn’t have much of a use for the V-22.

  • bum291

    Army should stick to the newest version of the Blackhawk and wait another 10 years at least before looking at tiltrotors…

  • rudyh60

    V-22= Archaic junk techno……go with the VJ-101 or Dornier Do31 protos…they actually functioned WITHOUT obsolete rotor technology….Army had this one right. The politicos ditched the aforementioned protos in the last century for whatever reason….

  • Useful data. Blessed me I recently found your web site accidentally, that i’m astonished the reason this particular coincidence could not occurred previously! I saved them.

  • the v22 is useful for combat situations where the supply lines are stretched and surrounding populations are hostile so runways cannot be built. I suppose they’re useful as transport vehicles to move marines from a sea vessle inland quickly. They can’t transport armour like a chinook so a bit of a strange vehicle. It’s supposedly perfectly suited for missions like Iraq but the commanders don’t seem to agree.

  • Zspoiler

    The Army would probably go with a second generation V-22 type..Something that is lighter.with more speed.The Marines are aiming for a full V/stovl force ,that will able handle Shipboard life and forward airfields as well. And to move inland from the beach we have the LCAC ,and CH-53Es to move the heavier stuff.

  • greyghost

    The Army should look at the old rotodyne gyrocopter. Maybe a lot cheaper and less maintenance intensive maybe add something like the ah-56 to keep up with it.

  • Hello there! I know this is kind off off topic but I was
    wondering which blog platform are you using for this site?
    I’m getting fed up of WordPress because I’ve had problems
    with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform.
    I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a
    good platform.