NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

V-22 Osprey is Unsuitable

February 4, 2003

Supporters of the V-22 argue that it has the operational flexibility of a helicopter but is twice as fast, can carry more troops and has five times the range. And unlike helicopters, the V-22 can fly to its area of deployment and does not have to be transported, either by ship or by cargo aircraft.

Critics contend that the Osprey is prohibitively expensive -- which is why Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney tried to cancel the program in 1989 -- and unsafe. The V-22 program has experienced four crashes, two of which killed 23 Marines.

  • Moreover, they argue that existing helicopters, which the services are already buying, can accomplish the same missions at considerably lower cost.
  • Critics say the V-22 is only marginally more capable than helicopters in terms of speed, range and payload but costs four to five times as much.
  • And despite more than 15 years of development and $12 billion spent, the Osprey is still in a test phase and nowhere near ready for operational deployment.
  • Instead of admitting that the V-22 program has failed and using the money to buy proven helicopters for the same missions, the Marine Corps, with considerable help from Congress, has kept the program alive -- continually trying to fix various problems.

But at least one problem -- vortex ring state (VRS) -- can never be fixed or eliminated, say analysts. "Flying around" the VRS problem by slowing the descent rate of the V-22 makes the Osprey more vulnerable than helicopters (despite claims that it is more survivable). In short, the V-22 Osprey is an albatross around the Pentagon's and taxpayers' necks. The program should be terminated.

Source: Charles V. Pena, "V-22: Osprey or Albatross?" Foreign Policy Briefing No. 72, January 8, 2003, Cato Institute.

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