Defense Media Network

CV-22 Progress Report

With half the fleet delivered, the aircraft is performing well

Dust isn’t all bad. On several of their infiltrations, the CV-22s received ground fire from buildings near their LZs. “The dust obscures where we are and we’ve not had a mission abort due to ground fire,” Palenske said. Only about 20 percent of the missions entail the aircraft landing “on the X” or the expected target location. Others have the aircraft landing 300 to 500 meters on an offset LZ.

There are limits to the aircraft on which Palenske and his people have to work closely with their customer units. “We are limited on high-altitude LZs. Above 5,000 feet, we have to carefully control loads and fuel. At high altitude, we will try to pull tankers closer to LZs in order to reduce how much fuel we have on board and may have to limit the aircraft load to six or eight passengers; whereas, at low altitude our loads are 20 to 25. We also look for short field roll-on or roll-off landings, which can help. Some missions we just cannot do and have to maintain our professionalism and safe operations by saying so.”


Improving Numbers and Improving Performance

Criticisms of V-22 operational suitability and sustainability can now be answered more authoritatively as the numbers of aircraft have grown to a sizeable enough fleet. When the CV-22 fleet was less than a combined 10 aircraft at the training unit and at the first operational unit, the metrics were dismal. Operationally ready rates were around 60 percent and they decreased when the aircraft deployed to desert environments. With five or six deployed of the 20 aircraft in AFSOC in 2011, operational readiness numbers exceed 70 percent. Still, it’s short of the desired 80 percent, but closing in on that goal.

CV-22 Osprey

A CV-22 Osprey flies over the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Operation Just Cause at the Hurlburt Field Airpark Dec. 18, 2009. The CV-22 belongs to the 8th Special Operations Squadron, one of the squadrons that participated in the operation in Panama. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Loken

The AFSOC A-4 and director of logistics, Col. Peter Robichaux, added in an interview that a large part of CV-22 in-commission rates depend on the experience level of the crew chiefs and specialists on the flight line. AFSOC, he said, has made the case with Headquarters Air Force that crew chiefs especially need to be guarded from assignment once they qualify on this aircraft. “We want to get them out of Tech School with two stripes on their arms, make them assistant crew chiefs, and upgrade them to primary over time, and then not let them leave the aircraft at least until they are technical sergeants – five stripes. We’ll have them for three or even four assignments on the aircraft, and our in-commission rates will benefit.”

Robichaux also pointed out that the fleet size determines the logistics supply chain. As the fleet grows, supplies of parts become more robust as larger numbers make projections of parts expenditures more accurate and reliable. “Our understanding of the aircraft parts, which ones will wear out over how much flying time, is much better than when the aircraft was new. Our people who inspect things are also better at it with experience. They know more what to look for and how to prevent problems. All of these trends are good and can be expected to continue to just get better.”

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Maj. Gen. Richard Comer (USAF-Ret) spent 32 years on active duty, 17 of which were...