At the end of the week a A V-22 Osprey crashes On Melville Island, north of Darwin. Of the 23 US Marines on board, three died, five were taken to Darwin Hospital in serious condition, and others sustained minor injuries.
The vehicle was part of Marine Spinning Force – DarwinIt is a unit of up to 2,500 US Marines stationed in the Northern Territory from April to October every year since 2012. This is the most serious incident in that 11-year period.
The Osprey is a relatively new type of aircraft, with a patchy safety record. But the advantages they offer to the military – and perhaps to civilians – mean we won’t see more of them in the future.
What is a V-22 Osprey?
The Osprey has long been controversial, initially because of its high cost and long development time, and in more recent years for safety concerns.
reflect these issues Revolutionary design Vehicle type: It’s a type of hybrid helicopter called a “tilt rotor,” which means the wing tilts up for takeoff and landing and then back down again for level flight. If this sounds complicated, it is.
Osprey is in leading edge aviation technology, with nothing else in operational service like it. The aircraft was built to replace helicopters and is used by the US Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and US Air Force. Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
Why is the osprey so useful?
The Marine Corps is by far the biggest user, attracted by the aircraft’s much longer range, much faster speed and good payload than conventional helicopters.
The Marine Corps is notorious for landing soldiers across beaches during combat, but that’s hard to do in modern times. Potential adversaries now had excellent shore defences, and getting ships close enough to shore to disembark troops via conventional offshore landing craft or conventional helicopters became unrealistic.
The Osprey solves this problem by allowing amphibious ships to remain hundreds of kilometers out to sea and launch “over-the-horizon” shore attacks. Landers can now surprise an enemy, while the Osprey’s scope allows access to many more potential landing sites.
The Marine Corps first introduced the Osprey into service in 2007 and was instrumental in its adoption. A whole new way of war. They dispensed with heavy mechanized forces such as tanks in favor of rapid maneuvers, light vehicles, long-range missile technology, and island mobility.
This approach to what is called Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) is the perfect solution Marines answer to China’s increasing assertiveness in East Asia and to maintaining the legion’s importance into modern times. Marines in Darwin now EABO practice.
Why is Osprey’s safety record patchy?
This is the upside. The downside to being a groundbreaking technology is not having enough historical experience of similar aircraft to draw upon.
Each Osprey flight is an educational event for pilots, maintenance personnel, and the aircraft manufacturer.
For example, the US Air Force He grounded their punishment For two weeks last year due to concerns about gearbox issues. This has been an ongoing problem that seems to get worse the more planes fly and the gearbox is used; Technical fixes She is in the works.
The main concern today is flight safety, and here the Osprey has a mixed record. The aircraft had four accidents and 30 fatalities during its initial development.
Since entering operational service in 2007, it has been there Ten additional accidents And 24 deaths.
Two of these ten were in combat operations where the cause was uncertain. The rest were due to pilot error or technical problems.
Will the Osprey become safer?
As the Osprey flew more, more knowledge was gained and the accident rate decreased. However, its occurrences tend to come in clusters. In the eight months from December 2016 to September 2017, three incidents occurred; In the eighteen months from March 2022 to now, there have been three more cases.
All of this is very negative compared to US civil aviation, which has a much better safety record. In 2020, A.J a report The National Military Aviation Safety Commission said the leading cause of U.S. military aviation accidents is insufficient flight hours to maintain efficient flight crews, inadequate personnel training, inconsistent funding of spare parts supplies, and risky maintenance practices.
The implication is that safety can be improved. It just needs to be handled properly.
Historically, the safety record of revolutionary aircraft such as the Osprey improves as more operational experience is gained and unknown technical issues are found and remedied. That was certainly the Australian experience with the F-111 attack aircraft, which had early accidents followed by many years of safe operation.
Will we see more slash engines like the Osprey in the future?
This is significant as it looks like Osprey will be the first of its kind, not the last. The US Army has selected a new generation of helicopters. V-280 ValorTo replace the old Black Hawk helicopters.
Over time, the Valors will inevitably be deployed to Australia for training exercises. Meanwhile, Australia Get a Blackhawk To replace the Australian Army’s Taipan helicopters, which appear to be difficult to maintain.
When these new Black Hawks are eventually replaced, Australia will likely go the US route and buy tilt rotors as well. Civil aviation gets Interested in inclined rotors also.
Tiltrotors such as the Osprey and its successors are likely to take to the Australian skies in the future.