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With its ability to fly faster than normal aircrafts and to access inaccessible hiding locations by the enemy, V-22 Osprey epitomizes a powerful transformational air-craft. The super craft is characterized with unique features that make it stand out from other helicopters due to its ability to swoop into an enemy’s hiding location, with deadly results.
However, it should be noted that the acquisition and program management development cycle of this particular aircraft has not been a smooth one. More than thirty people have lost their lives in the course of V-22’s development and the aircraft seem to face more challenges that may lead to more deaths.
It should be noted that this glitch-plagued aircraft has been accused of possessing numerous flaws in regard to its design and operating systems that make it even more dangerous. This is despite the fact that the aircraft is on demand for special operations within the government defense forces.
The U.S Air Force for example requires fifty CV-22s to engage in various special missions while the navy requires forty-eight aircrafts for rescue missions. The Marine Corps on the other hand are in dire need of replacing their old models of CH-46s and CH-53s with 360 MV-22s to enable a smooth transition in their missions.
If positioned in combat, it could lead to major future fatalities that will not only be caused by the enemy fire, but by the fundamental flaws witnessed throughout its development. These flaws were as a result of omitted tests and shortage of the general design that were initially pointed out but never dealt with.
Though the development of V-22 is rife with opportunities, the challenges seem to outdo the initial intended purpose of the aircraft (Jean, 2007).
The development of V-22 osprey was initiated in 1969 by the navy department. It was initially known as the Joint-Mission Vertical Lift Aircraft at the time and operated under the Vertical Assault Medium Transport requirements (Polmar, 1987). It was not until 1986 that the government, under the Department of Defense, gave its authorization to allow the program to engage into full time development.
The first flight of osprey was witnessed in 1989. However, there was a strong debate calling for the cancellation of V-22 program. The Secretary in charge of Defense in the then Bush administration spear-headed the mission to kill the program despite the program’s documented capabilities. However, this mission hit a deadlock due to various challenges that led to the congress’ failure to support the cancellation mission (Jones, 2001).
This was due to the numerous misinformations about the ospreys that seemed to be in circulation at the time. What then characterized such a massive push to cancel such a program? As earlier noted, the inception of V-22 has been faced with numerous challenges. Not only has it led to the deaths of marine troops in two different crashes, but it has also been accused of giving unfavorable and falsified reports concerning its reliability.
These developments have therefore prompted the debate about its safety despite the billions of shillings pumped into the project. This paper will therefore analyze the production of V-22 and to establish whether the program meets the required criteria for a low rate initial production.
The Accomplishments And Constraints Faced By The Program
For the osprey to fulfill its specific requirements, the V-22 program management has been faced by numerous challenges. One of the most outstanding challenges that they had to overcome was the ability to incorporate the advanced state-of-art machinery into the manufacturing process.
This was a challenge as technology seems to change on a daily basis and the program management had to ensure constant innovativeness in the manufacturing process. This was in a bid to keep it abreast of other aircrafts and to access hidden locations of the enemy.
They also had to utilize a unique acquisition process that ensured the aircraft’s effectiveness on one hand, while maximizing its affordability on the other hand. The congressional requirements were also a big challenge in regard to the aircraft’s weight and manufacturing costs.
This required the management to adopt an integrated product team for various reasons. One of the reasons was to improve the design of the aircraft and to manage the communication lines. Another reason was to drastically reduce the manufacturing costs and time.
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Importantly, the program successfully incorporated a change in its maintenance and design of the aircraft following the lessons learnt during the FSD ship 05 and FSD ship 04 tragedies experienced in Quantico.
Some of the changes incorporated included an improvement in the engine strength to withhold the frequent surges of the engine and an improved device used for temperature sensing and drains around the nacelle area of the aircraft. Another major transition was in the cockpit management system that was also redesigned. These transformations have played a significant role to improve the overall potential of V-22.
It should however be noted that the main challenge facing the production program of the aircraft was not its failure to meet all the necessary requirements, but rather the inadequate number of air flames necessary for training programs. The fact that the funding by the Research and Development was very low to meet the requirements, the projected operational capabilities was bound to be affected in the coming years.
It is for this reason that the government postponed the flight testing of ship 02 aircraft in 1994. It is clear that the inadequacy of such flight test assets continue to pose a challenge in the program’s development. This limited feature hinders the capability of the program to cope with unforeseen future circumstances.
The program seems to have made considerable improvements in its acquisition status and costs. As earlier stated, the Marine Corps, the navy and the air force are scheduled to procure the V-22 aircrafts in order to accomplish its missions. The current move to acquiring 425 MV-22s by the Marine Corps as opposed to its original desired number of acquiring 552 MV-22s is attributed to the diminished attrition rate estimates.
The Navy, on the other hand, has currently compelled a 1 billion dollar annual ceiling to procure the aircrafts. This is an indication that the Navy will therefore take approximately twenty five years to procure the 48 HV-22s, which is close to the aircraft’s life cycle of the estimated 30 years.
The annual ceiling imposed will therefore hinder the production rate of the aircrafts per year. The acquisition process is not faced by cost challenge alone but also on the effectiveness of its operations. The acquisition process in regards to cost will have to ensure proportionality in the production line.
Joint Service Requirements Governing The V-22
It is important to have a clear understanding of the specific requirements that are necessary to ensure a valid operational testing. The first set of Joint Service Requirements was promulgated in 1982 and since then, only four additional requirements relating to V-22 have been documented. However, the additional requirements have been met with criticism due to their conflicting nature.
Some of the requirements expect the program managers to present their service sponsors with an aircraft that possess a multi-engine and which is self-deployable. Further, the aircraft should also have the medium vertical take off and landing capability.
All these requirements should be put in place to ensure that the aircraft is able to combat search and rescue missions among other missions. The common developmental goals of Joint Service Requirements include, to adopt a user-friendly technology and to come up with a common logistic in order to improve the aircraft’s reliability and survivability.
There is also a requirement that relates to the design and specific configuration services that require to be integrated. For example, MV-22 is required to accommodate 24 combat-loaded troops and three additional crew members.
The CV-22 on the other hand is required to accommodate 18 troops and four additional crew members. To achieve the balance in the action radius therefore, it is necessary to install the wing tanks in the aircrafts.
Another important requirement is the need of the aircraft to be fully equipped to ensure a strong self-defense capability. This is in regards to its weight, space and center of gravity and a balanced integration of a three barreled 50 caliber weapon system.
The system should be incorporated as a kit either during or after the aircraft’s production stage. The specific requirement to install the weapon system is significant due to the increased levels of threats experienced world-wide.
The Doctrine And Tactic Development Of V-22
The development of V-22 has been characterized by both the doctrine and tactic development. A doctrinal development is a principal that guides the general thinking of a military organization. Through a particular doctrine, the military organization sets down an authoritative, rather than a prescriptive procedure on how to face a particular war.
The aim of a doctrine development is to provide a platform of mutual understanding among the team players in the organization and to further solidify a harmonious action in a war event. An effective doctrine requires solid judgment in its implementation. It further ensures that adequate knowledge as regards to the technology is applied when setting down the principles.
Since time immemorial, change in technology has been one of the significant factors that have influenced a war event in one way or another. It is for this reason that marines have always been at the forefront in combating new state of art equipment. A good example is the adaptation of both the AV-8 and now V-22 aircrafts.
Based on this example, it is therefore clear that a well set-up doctrine needs to encompass both technology and tactics which should fully relate to each other. The transitional strategic facade of a multi-polar globe saw the enactment of a fundamental shift in the America’s war fighting priorities by both the Navy and the Marine Corps. This drastic shift led to a massive transformation in both focus and priorities.
The Navy service, for example has changed its focus from engaging itself with the global maritime power solely on the high seas to focus on the littorals. This strategic focus shift has played a very vital role to enhance the concept of operational doctrine.
The V-22 power to project a tactical maneuverability during a war event and to further possess a capability to combat power over a long distance within a short time span enhances the troop’s war fighting skills and flexibility. It should be noted that this particular aircraft has played a key role as a technology catalyst that will play an important role to fill the current doctrinal gaps.
Comprehending new doctrine, understanding the effectiveness of the new technology and expanding fresh and innovative tactics towards the tiltrotor capabilities is part of the project life cycle. Developing such tactics has proved to be a challenge that calls for the involvement of the key players hence requiring them to think outside the box.
Tactic development is one of the key roles of the V-22 operational test management to ensure that a well established operational tactic guide is implemented for V-22 take off. This is achieved by coordinating other tactical development commands. Some of the commands include the tactics squadron and the weapons of marine aviation.
New operational tactics of the aircraft are required to ensure a high speed conversion of the aircraft. The new tactic entails a combination of a higher speed, altitude alterations and pay load that is characterized by configuring the fixed-wing of V-22.
Upon reinforcing the tactical and performance development in modeling, it is therefore clear that V-22 cannot be forced into other category of a helicopters but a tiltrotor. Such a move will considerably diminish the unique capabilities possessed by V-22.
The Operational Assessment Of V-22
After 47 years since the program’s inception, V-22 was finally tested in 1994. The operational test period was utilized to assess various operational issues. The effectiveness and potential suitability of this aircraft formed the basis of the assessment. This was achieved through an incorporated support program and the critical design review during the test period.
It is important to note that the operational assessment was done in three parts. The first operational assessment was conducted at Bell Textron in Arlington to assess the ground and specific maintenance accomplishments. Two aircrafts, 01 and 06 were utilized to assess the particular actions such as the removal and replacements, ingress operations among other actions.
The aircrafts were further tested on their capabilities to embark and disembark fully loaded combat troops and injured key players. The flaws that were noted in this phase, such as the deficiency in the system used to handle the cargo, was included in the OT-IIA preliminary findings that was later released. This prompted for a change in all the future designs of V-22 aircrafts.
The second phase involved flight training which took place in Patuxent River. The training assessment involved mission planning, handling the navigation systems, simulated emergencies and management in the cockpit. The phase saw the completion of six training flights assessed during this period.
This phase played an important role to ensure smooth coordination by the air-crew incase of emergencies so as to ensure safety of everybody on board. The last phase, which was conducted at the same river, entailed the operational flight assessment. The assessment included air defense at low altitudes, external load and self-deployment assessment, formation flights and the cockpit lighting assessment.
Though the operational assessment of V-22 faced major criticisms due to its unlimited scope, it was concluded that the aircraft was potentially suitable and effective.
The Future Of V-22 Osprey
The paramount concern of all the military key planners is to deploy troops to the battle fields at the shortest time possible. Before V-22 osprey, helicopters used to carry the troops were not fast enough and lacked the capability to access the enemy hide-out. The helicopters used were not designed fro war and they were either very small or failed to have an incorporated weapon system.
Much as the development of V-22 has been met with different reactions, it has played a big role to fill in this gap. Combined with all the essential elements such as vertical take-off and its capability to fly at a speed of 316 mph, V-22 becomes the only tiltrotor that can be utilized by the armed forces.
However, following the two crashes, this aircraft has been termed as too expensive and unstable to be used in combat assaults. The future operational safety of the aircraft has been questioned due to various critical issues facing the aircraft. One of such issue is the aircraft’s deficiency in autorotation capability, which should be a cause of concern.
This incapability questions the future operational safety of V-22 as it is characterized by an inoperative landing capability making it even more dangerous. Another issue that shakes its future operations is its high vibratory loads. This is further combined with its lithe structural design on one hand and multifaceted hydraulic system on the other.
This combination is likely to result to numerous failures in the aircraft’s mechanical systems in the future. Another issue that seems to have a safety implication in the future is the fact that the field into which the aircraft operates on has high downwash velocity. This issue is critical as it can lead to unfavorable effects when operating in dry land environments or over water in the future.
Most critics have called for the program to be scrapped off by claiming that the program is too far dangerous to continue its operations. They argue that the program has been a waste of time to the marine aviation and has not only destroyed the corporate image of the Marine Corps, but has further ruined the integrity of the officers.
The move, they argue, will not only save lives but will prompt further delivery of state of art helicopters (Merrow, 2011).
On the other hand, the program seems to enjoy massive support. This has been evidenced by the overwhelming support by the congress during the era of Bush administration. The OT-IIA report that was published after the assessments phases supported the program by issuing various recommendations that required further action that should be taken.
The debate whether V-22 has a future or not continue to range worldwide with each proponent basing their reasons on solid grounds. However, it is clear that the Marine Corps needs to put into consideration the limiting factors hindering the smooth operation of V-22 hence putting the lives of the troops in jeopardy.
They should therefore take a bold move today to ensure the future operational safety of V-22 through various recommended modifications (Keene, 1996).
In conclusion, it is established that V-22 is well qualified as evidenced in its project life cycle. Though it has been labeled ‘unsafe’, it is evident that the aircraft will have a tremendous significance in American Forces in future.
The reasons behind the two crashes that cost lots of lives should be investigated into and a solution to the same are given to reduce such fatalities in the future. This will not only reduce the risks involved when flying to the battle field, but will reduce major costs that have been lost as a result.
Jean, G. (2007). Weapons Under Fire. Journal of National Defense, 92, 1 – 18.
Jones, C. (2001). Roles, Politics and the Survival of the V-22 Osprey. Journal of Political and Military Sociology, 29, 1-46.
Keene, R. (1996). The MV-22 Osprey: Why the Corps Needs It. Letherneck (pre-1998), 79,9
Merrow, E. (2011). Industrial megaprojects: Concepts, strategies and practices for success. New York: Wiley and Sons Publishers.
Polmar, N. (1987). Ships and aircrafts of the U.S fleet. New York: Naval Institute Press.