The V-22 Osprey: The Right Aircraft for the War Against Terrorism

Oct 26, 2001
The V-22 Osprey: The Right Aircraft
for the War Against Terrorism

On September 11, 2001, the United States of America went to war. Like World War II, the nation did not seek this war - it was forced on us by an unprovoked attack that took the lives of thousands of American citizens. And like World War II, this war will take all our dedication and determination to win. But win we must. Our war is against terrorism, and it is going to be different from any the United States has fought in the past. Inside our borders constant vigilance, tighter security and better surveillance will be needed to protect American lives and property and to capture those terrorists who infiltrate our country. However, protecting ourselves at home will not be enough. We have to stop the enemy from reaching our shores. To accomplish this mission, we must take the war against terrorism to the source. We must get to the bases where the leaders of these deadly terrorist cells arm and train the people who carry out their orders. A new type of warfare will require new tactics and new weapons. New weapons like the V-22 Osprey -- a national asset for a nation in need. The V-22 tiltrotor aircraft was designed to meet the kind of crisis we are now facing. With the speed, altitude, long range, and fuel efficiency of a turboprop plane, and the vertical takeoff, landing and hovering capabilities of a helicopter, the Osprey is the right aircraft to meet the terrorism threat. Whether it be a counter-terrorist mission, hostage rescue, or larger-scale troop landing and assault -- the Osprey can handle the job. The V-22 Osprey can transport American combat troops and equipment quickly and over long distances, set them down anywhere the mission requires, and carry them back safely when the mission is accomplished. There is no need for a landing strip. The Osprey can take our fighting personnel wherever the enemy is hiding: in rugged, isolated country or in the middle of a city. The V-22 can fly more than 700 miles on a tankful of fuel, can be refueled in flight, and is self-deployable to any place in the world. President Bush has warned the forces of terrorism that they can run but they can’t hide. They will find this out the hard way -- once they have the Osprey on their tails. Because the V-22 can come in faster than a helicopter, from a longer distance and at a higher altitude, the V-22 is less vulnerable to enemy fire. Its tiltrotor design, extensive use of composite materials and sophisticated flight control system also make it harder to shoot down than a helicopter. As a result, the V-22 will not only make our Marines and Special Operations personnel more combat-ready and combat-effective, it will help save their lives. Studies conducted by Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and the BDM Corporation both showed that military units supported by V-22s could defeat enemy counterattacks faster and with fewer casualties than when supported by conventional helicopters. Mission-effective in the war against terrorism, the V-22 is cost-effective as well. Although critics of the program have made much of the Osprey’s high per aircraft cost, they neglect to consider that it would require two to three times as many helicopters to carry out the airlift missions expected of the V-22. A larger fleet of helicopters would require more money, pilots and ground crew to maintain. They would also accrue substantial logistics costs, since helicopters must be dismantled and carried long distances aboard ships or cargo airplanes, while the V-22 is self-deployable. Tragically, there were two V-22 crashes last year. Twenty-three marines lost their lives. This loss of life is heartbreaking. The challenges for the V-22 program - its hydraulics system and some commands in its flight control software - can and must be fixed quickly. The prime contractors on the V-22 program, Bell Helicopter Textron and The Boeing Company, are at work to correct these operational errors. I am confident that the necessary redesigns will be completed soon. The contractors can ramp up production, the new aircraft can be thoroughly flight tested, and the Marines and Special Operations forces can begin fielding V-22 squadrons within a relatively short time. I am not alone in my support for the Osprey. Bipartisan majorities in both Houses of Congress continue to support the V-22 program. The Marine Corps and Special Operations Command remain strongly committed to the Osprey and committed to its production. The blue ribbon panel appointed by former Defense Secretary William Cohen to examine the V-22 program following last year’s crashes also concluded that the Osprey is still the best airlift aircraft around, and that we should proceed with building it and putting it into service. And we need to do so as rapidly as possible. The average age of the aircraft in the Marine Corps’ medium-lift CH-46 helicopter fleet is pushing 40 years old. Over the last five years, six have crashed -- causing 26 deaths. They must currently undergo safety inspections after every ten flight hours. We cannot send our troops into the war against terrorism in slow, outdated helicopters. Not when a much better alternative is available. In my five years of serving in Congress, I have never been prouder of the American people than I am now. We are standing together to see each other through this time of tragedy, and we are standing together to resist the evil men who would see us defeated and afraid. I am proud that people in my Congressional district and my state are working to build the vital military systems, including the V-22 Osprey, that the nation will need to win the war against terrorism. We must build the V-22 Osprey and get it to our Marines and Special Operations forces - and we must do it soon. It’s the aircraft we need to win the war against terrorism.

  By Congresswoman Kay Granger