Air Transportation: Ospreys Over Afghanistan


October 26, 2009: For the first time. a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys tilt-rotor squadron (10-12 aircraft) will arrive in Afghanistan by the end of the year. Three of these squadrons have already served in Iraq (one after another.) Earlier this year, the first MV-22 squadron was based on an amphibious ship. VMM-263 is shipping out, with ten MV-22s, on the 41,000 ton LHD USS Bataan.

The marines began using the MV-22 in Iraq in late 2007, and have been satisfied with the results. The only major problems were engine durability. That's a common problem in the "sand box." Every other vehicle that uses a gas turbine engine in Iraq (from M-1 tanks to C-17 jet transports) have reported increased wear on their engines because of the copious and continuous dust and sand in Iraq.

Another problem was that even frequent inspections won't always catch an engine that's about to die from too much dust and sand. Several MV-22s in western Iraq (Anbar province, where marine MV-22s were operating) experienced engine failures. There have been no crashes, but there have been emergency landings (followed by quick engine changes so the $70 million, 20 ton aircraft could get home under its own power). The Rolls Royce T-406 engines weigh about a ton each, and put out 6,000 horsepower. Marine maintenance crews are trained to put a spare engine inside a V-22, along with needed tools, fly out to where another V-22 has made an emergency landing, do the engine change quickly, and get back to base in one piece.

The MV-22s sent to Iraq moved there by ship. They could have flown themselves, but that would have meant organizing aerial tankers, and dealing with possible icing problems over the North Atlantic. Plus it would have put more wear and tear on the aircraft. Shipping out with the USS Wasp will expose the aircraft to more saltwater exposure (which, so far, has not been a problem), and ample opportunity to operate over water. The Wasp also has CH-53E, AH-1Z and UH-1N helicopters on board, plus some AV-8B jets.  

The MV-22s used by the marines can carry 24 troops 700 kilometers (vertical take-off on a ship, level flight, landing, and return) at 390 kilometers an hour. The V-22 is replacing the CH-46E helicopter, which can carry 12 troops 350 kilometers at a speed of 135 kilometers an hour. The V-22 can carry a 10,000-pound external sling load 135 kilometers, while the CH-46E can carry 3,000 pounds only 90 kilometers.





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