The Dream Machine: The Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Ospreyby Published 27 Apr 2010
|The Dream Machine: The Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey.pdf|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster|
WHEN THE MARINES decided to buy a helicopter-airplane hybrid “tiltrotor” called the V-22 Osprey, they saw it as their dream machine. The tiltrotor was the aviation equivalent of finding the Northwest Passage: an aircraft able to take off, land, and hover with the agility of a helicopter yet fly as fast and as far as an airplane. Many predicted it would reshape civilian aviation. The Marines saw it as key to their very survival.
By 2000, the Osprey was nine years late and billions over budget, bedeviled by technological hurdles, business rivalries, and an epic political battle over whether to build it at all. Opponents called it one of the worst boondoggles in Pentagon history. The Marines were eager to put it into service anyway. Then two crashes killed twenty- three Marines. They still refused to abandon the Osprey, even after the Corps’ own proud reputation was tarnished by a national scandal over accusations that a commander had ordered subordinates to lie about the aircraft’s problems.
Based on in-depth research and hundreds of interviews, The Dream Machine recounts the Marines’ quarter-century struggle to get the Osprey into combat. Whittle takes the reader from the halls of the Pentagon and Congress to the war zone of Iraq, from the engineer’s drafting table to the cockpits of the civilian and Marine pilots who risked their lives flying the Osprey—and sometimes lost them. He reveals the methods, motives, and obsessions of those who designed, sold, bought, flew, and fought for the tiltrotor. These stories, including never before published eyewitness accounts of the crashes that made the Osprey notorious, not only chronicle an extraordinary chapter in Marine Corps history, but also provide a fascinating look at a machine that could still revolutionize air travel.
"The Dream Machine: The Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey" Reviews
Edit 12/17/13: This article by Whittle is worth reading regarding the safety of the machine compared to standard helicopters. One statistic he did not cite was a comparison of the number of flying hours between crashes. http://breakingdefense.com/2012/04/os...
The Holy Grail of aviation engineering has always been a device that carries a reasonable load, can take off vertically, and flies safely and fast. The V-22 Osprey was supposed to fill those criteria. That it has entered service with the Marines after a tortured and crashed-filled history is perhaps remarkable.
The history of tilt-rotor and VTOL aircraft has been plagued by "dynamic instability." That's the unfortunate tendency of propellers to become very unstable unless the structure to which they are attached is of a certain configuration. Any kind of tilting mechanism changes that configuration as the propeller nacelle moves through the arc.
The tilt rotor resulted from a confluence of interests. The Marines needed a new vehicle to move troops around quickly, their vehicle of choice during WW II the amphibious landing craft having been made obsolete by the atomic bomb. Bell obviously wanted a new helicopter they could sell to the armed services. So when Spivey, Bell's tilt rotor advocate came along, their needs suited perfectly. The Marines existence was in jeopardy for a while, especially as Truman wanted to merge all the forces under one joint command. The Marines being the smallest and the need for boarding from ship to ship having disappeared, they were terrified they were being superseded. (Their lobbying effort was so powerful Truman was quoted as saying they had a propaganda machine as good as Stalin's. It was so good he was forced to apologize for making the statement.)
The catastrophe in the deserts of Iran in the failed attempt to rescue hostages, brought home the frailty of helicopters and the need for an alternative, adding additional fuel for tilt-rotors. (Note that if you have seen the promotional videos for the Osprey you can see how they cleverly suggest it would be immune to the sand problems. The propellers they say are used to clear sand away from the front so visibility is not impaired. I don’t know how much consideration they gave to the unit behind them. Personally, they seem awfully susceptible to the same kinds of issues. See 1:54 of this video for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWUThc... That just can't be good for the machinery.)
Ironically, it had been Iran, under the Shah, that had saved Bell Helicopters with huge contracts, so many that Bell at one time had 8,000 employees living in a town constructed for them by the Iranians. That all came quickly to an end following the Shah's overthrow. (For an excellent book of our the Shah came to power, I can recommend All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer.)
I suppose if any one person can claim credit for bring the Osprey to fruition it has to be Secretary of the Navy John Lehman who saw the XV-15 at the Paris Air Show and was so taken with it (or perhaps the full court press of Bell Helicopters) that he ordered the Navy, which controls the Marines' budget, to release funds for its development and to squash development of the 130 a new That coupled with Reagan's huge increases in defense spending made the program a virtual certainty.
The political machinations and shenanigans to get the Osprey built, as described by Whittle, were a wonder. Cheney, who was then Secretary of Defense, (1989-1993, and yes, government does appear to be more than incestuous) wanted to kill the program. Under orders to reduce the defense budget after the deficit busting years of the Reagan administration (George the First tried to hold the line on his “no new taxes” pledge), he and Congress played a back and forth game. This was by no means a partisan battle, proponents coming from districts that stood to gain from jobs created by the program. Cheney would order the Marine Corps not to support the program but they would enlist their Congressional allies to add items to the appropriations budgets insisting certain things be done. Cheney would refuse to spend the money (to my knowledge I don’t know if this strategy has even been tested in the courts, i.e., can the executive just not spend money the legislature has appropriated?), so Congress would threaten to reduce the money appropriated to run Cheney’s office, etc. Congress won.
Once they had politically maneuvered to get the contract, the real problems began. Bell’s wonderful little model was only proof of concept. Now they had to build a machine to meet the military’s specs: carrying 24 fully loaded troops, partly stealthy, advanced avionics, fly at 30,000 feet, *and* be able to fold the wings and be compact enough to fit on the elevator of a carrier. Each of these items added weight which meant bigger engines and rotors which meant more weight, ad infinitum. Not to mention they were building neither a rotor-wing nor a fixed-wing aircraft. It was a bizarre mélange of both which might wind of having none of the best characteristics of each.
Boeing-Vertol’s and Bell’s partnership led to further problems as each company had developed very different philosophies and cultures which often clashed. Boeing looked down on Bell as being an itty-bitty helicopter manufacturer while Boeing was used to large processes, but they were pissed at losing the 360 contract. Then again they were the only ones with experience with composites, an essential technology if they were to shed weight. The details of this partnership are alone worth the price of the book.
The book takes us through 2009 but will need to be updated since the future of the thing remains unclear. According to Wired Magazine's article, there have been three accidents involving Air Force V-22s costing four lives. You can watch hagiographic videos on YouTube put out by the Marines. The question I would ask is whether the added speed of "airplane mode", about 316 mph is really needed when existing helicopters it's intended to replace like the Sea Stallion can make about 200 mph. The one advantage would be air refueling and being able to travel longer distances but the payload is much less than conventional aircraft and while in helicopter mode they suffer from the same disadvantages. The way it folds up for transport is really amazing and quite an engineering feat. The V-22 is under consideration to replace the presidential helicopters. If I were president, I don’t think I'd get on one.
Maybe they should number their aircraft differently since the F-22 has a similar problematic accident record. All the services tend to blame people, the pilots, commanders, etc. when the flaw may well be the aircraft itself. In the meantime soldiers die and we hemorrhage money. It's also really ugly.
Note that Bell is now offering the V-280, a third generation tilt-rotor.
"An early version of the V-22, which takes off and lands like a helicopter but cruises like an airplane, crashed four times during testing between 1991 and 2000, killing 30 people. Since entering frontline service in 2009, three of the Air Force’s roughly 20 V-22s have been destroyed or badly damaged in accidents, at the cost of four lives. Likewise, in the last 10 years the Marines’ fleet of some 200 Ospreys has suffered around a dozen major accidents resulting in several destroyed aircraft and no fewer than three deaths."
An in depth, and fairly enjoyable look into the development of the V-22 Osprey. I have to be honest, this book didn't exactly deliver to me what I wanted. I was much more interested in the technical aspects of the development. The engineering of the machine, how it was put together, what it's flaws were, and the overall difficulty of building a new type of aircraft. While the book does touch on these points, a large majority of the narrative is focused more on the political side. The bureaucracy of getting this project approved, and to keep it running for over 20 yours before the aircraft was finally delivered. As I said, it wasn't what I was originally looking for, but it was good all the same.
Solid and serious research, reporting, and history. Whittle spent (literally) years interviewing hundreds of people and pouring through mountains of documents to tell a detailed yet lively tale of the nearly 30-year evolution of one of the more unique aerial platforms deployed by the U.S. military (primarily the Marines). My guess is the book primarily attracts thin slices of a diverse audience, ranging from defense weapon systems geeks (like me), engineers, military historians, pilots, public-policy wonks, Marines, procurement/acquisition/program management gurus, to, no doubt, scandal-mongers.
Part helicopter, part airplane, the V-22 tiltrotor has frequently polarized and spurred strong, often visceral reactions, which Whittle fully develops. The detail, including plentiful (nearly 400) notes, a lengthy bibliography, a robust index, and a handful of photos (including one taken by the author's wife!), is there for those who crave it. But the book shines due to Whittle's focus on the human element - the visionaries, the proponents, the critics and skeptics, the leaders, legislators, and lobbyists, and - most poignantly - those whose sacrifices (which are all too often inherent in advancing the state of the art) demonstrated the truth in the saying: "The history of aviation is written in blood."
I'm not recommending this book for summer beach reading. But, for serious readers intrigued by the oft-tortured history and evolution of defense technology, I recommend it without hesitation.
The author does a pretty good job of giving a fair, unbiased assessment of the V-22 program. Although I did feel in the beginning that he favored Bell over Boeing, most of his account does not lean toward one side or another. Whittle does a great job of presenting nonfiction in an interesting and readable way. He develops his characters well; those closest to the program are described in more detail and some insight into their personalities is given. I thought this book might be too technical for me or there may be too many numbers, but Whittle presents the facts in a way that isn't too overwhelming and is easily digestible. This is surprisingly readable for a nonfiction book, and I think it will go on my shelf of "to read again someday" books. Very informative and enjoyable. The only thing I dislike about the book is when Whittle defines acronyms and gives the pronunciation for them (i.e. EAPS is pronounced "eeps"). I found this a little unnecessary and would have preferred a glossary of abbreviations instead. I know, kind of picky but it's the little things.
4 of 5 stars
The 'Dream Machine' depicts the relatively well-known story of the aircraft known as the V-22, or "Osprey". I won't recount the entire lengthy tale of the Osprey program, which began back in 1982 and has cost more than $52 billion dollars and 30 lives prior to its first combat deployment to Iraq in 2007.
If you believe in big, innovative ideas they don't come much larger than wanting to develop a tilt-rotor aircraft. Prior to reading this book, I understood that the concept for such an aircraft covers decades. However, I did not know that such an idea had spurred the develop of prototypes all the way back to the 1930s. For some aviation enthusiasts, tilt-rotor aircraft that could hover like a helicopter and also fly like a plane - in other words, do everything in the air that a bird can do - was truly a "dream machine". There is a lot to love.
For the Osprey's detractors, there is plenty to hate. The program could be held up as an archetype of all that is wrong with the weapons acquisition process: busted budgets, lengthy delays, fatal crashes, political intrigue, mission-creep-laden requirements.
The truth is that whether you think the Osprey was a dream machine or a nightmare - you're probably right.
I had not previously understood why the Marine Corps was so enamored with the aircraft and took such efforts to ensure that it was develop. To put it simply, they felt as though the helicopter was something of an interim solution to support amphibious assaults (due to its limited speed based on physics and its limited range).
Below are some highlights of the book:
(In addition, I have some really good pictures, videos and links at the bottom. They are items that I dug up when I ran across something interesting in the book. I was particularly fascinated by the 3D animation that recreated the Marana, AZ crash.)
- "We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” Eisenhower declared."
LIMITATIONS OF HELICOPTERS
- Limitations of helicopters: "One of the most important is the fact that when a helicopter flies forward, the speed of each rotor blade compared to the relative wind varies dramatically, depending on whether the blade is moving toward the front or rear of the aircraft. A blade moving forward and into the relative wind, an “advancing blade,” creates far more lift than one moving backward and away from the relative wind, a “retreating blade.”
WHY DO THE MARINES WANT IT?
- Marine Corps interest in aircraft: "the only service fully sold on the helicopter as a weapon of war was the Marine Corps. The Marines were studying helicopters as a better way than landing craft to get troops from ship to shore in amphibious operations."
- "The Marines quickly formed a special board of three generals to consider the possibilities (of how to deal with the threat nuclear weapons posed to amassing naval forces for an amphibious assault). Their answer was a new tactic called “vertical envelopment.”
- "The helicopter would allow the Marines to launch amphibious assaults from “ships widely separated and further off the shore than ten or fifteen miles,” Miller explained. “That’s why it was so important to the Marine Corps, because it enabled them to continue amphibious landings into a hostile shore. That’s their reason for existence.”
- "The Marines started buying Harriers in 1971, seeing the plane as a way to finally reach their goal of providing close air support to troops within thirty minutes of getting a call. The “jump jet” could take off from a road or even a clearing in the jungle, which meant it could be based just back of the front lines."
- "Fitch would tell a Senate committee that the tiltrotor was “a step comparable to the introduction of the jet engine for fighter aircraft.”
- "In our own minds, we knew very well how we were going to employ the aircraft once ashore, however, all we justified and explained was how the aircraft was to be employed in the ship-to-shore movement during an amphibious operation.” Blot said the Marines actually had a list of thirty missions the Osprey could do for them."
- "Getting helicopters overseas takes weeks. The Osprey was going to fly itself over the ocean. That was going to give the Corps a unique way to live up to one of its mottos: “First to Fight.”
- "Slowly but surely—not in a sudden shudder of inspiration, but in a gradual, osmotic way—the idea took hold within the Corps that the tiltrotor was going to transform the Marines. Without the Osprey, they would have to buy new helicopters to replace their old ones, and from time to time fend off those who wanted to reduce their cult of warriors to shipboard sheriffs and embassy guards, maybe even merge them with the Army."
- "The Osprey promised to ensure the Marine Corps’ future in a way that planting the flag on Mount Suribachi during the World War II battle of Iwo Jima hadn’t."
- In 1989, "The Osprey program got a new manager: Colonel Jim Schaefer, who in 1980, as a major, had piloted the helicopter that caused the disaster at Desert One in Iran. Schaefer had been advocating the tiltrotor ever since. (Interesting that the Marine pilot who was at the center of the Desesrt One aircraft incident was chosen to be the lead for the Osprey program for the USMC).
- (Throughout the book, the Osprey is depicted by key individuals as an aircraft that - if available - could have prevented the Desert One fiasco).
POLITICALLY, MARINES ARE SNEAKY BASTARDS
- "The joint program was the horse the Marines were going ride into the budget battles as they fought for their CH-46 replacement. In the beginning, it was a Trojan horse."
- "The key, though, always had been the Marines’ determination to have the Osprey, plus the Corps’ high standing in the eyes of the public and Congress. The"
BELL-BOEING PARTNERSHIP FORMED
- "The Bell-Boeing partnership was announced in June 1982."
- (Bell is a small company good at developing small helicopters like the Huey and had pioneered modern tilt-rotor technology.
- (Boeing is good at developing larger aircraft and big-budget efforts. The two companies decided to put their efforts together for the project).
- "50–50 partnership has a fundamental weakness: no one is in charge. When tough issues arose, as they often did, there was no easy way to settle them."
- (The idea was to use a lot of composite materials to cut down on weight but it was hard to make parts of consistent quality. They even took the laborious step of using CAT scans to find defects in parts): "He wheeled the gurney into the CAT scan room, laid the grip on a table as instructed, and watched a bemused technician prop pillows under the faux elephant’s foot to position it correctly, same as any other patient."
- "They’d had to make the rear fuselage higher than originally planned to allow room for the cargo ramp, which meant the Texas T was too tall to fit below the deck of a ship. The JVX would have a shorter H-tail."
- (There was a constant battle, as always, to cut weight) "In those days, the rule of thumb in aircraft design was that structure cost about $ 1,000 a pound." (Composites, ironically, added weight).
- (Due to the requirement to put the plane on a ship, it had smaller "proprotors" - as they are called, since they act like propellers and rotors - which affects the aircraft's lift)
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
- “We’re going to call it the ‘Osprey,’ ” Lehman (Navy secretary) confided.
- "Osprey” suited Lehman’s temperament. The osprey, Pandion haliaetus, is an aquatic bird of prey, a medium-sized, brown and white raptor found all over the world. Nature’s osprey feeds almost exclusively on fish, which it hovers over before diving to snare them with its powerful talons. The bird then takes off vertically to haul its catch to shore and eat it. The JVX wasn’t going to devour America’s enemies itself, but it was being built to carry Marines who would pounce on them."
- "A Department of Defense directive determined the new tiltrotor’s “Mission Design Series” letter and number: “V” for Vertical Take Off and Landing, “22” because that was its place on the historical list of “V” aircraft. In January 1985, the JVX officially became the V-22 Osprey."
- "Military aircraft go through two types of tests, “developmental” and “operational.”
- Jul 1992: fatal crash in Potomac. "Jim Schaefer never forgot seeing coins found in the pockets of some of Aircraft 4’ s crew. They were bent."
- This is probably the most depressing thing I have read in a long time: "Little Anthony often asked his mother whether it was Friday. “Daddy said we’re picking him up on Friday,” the little boy would remind her."
- There were significant design changes to the aircraft's design as a result of a study (following the fatal crash in the Potomac).
- April 2000: second fatal crash - Marana, AZ. After the second fatal crash, more critics were calling for an end to the aircraft. This time, critics said the design of tilt-rotor aircraft are prone to crash (see video http://youtu.be/wddpsnvu0PM for details)
- After a third fatal crash - in North Carolina, the project looked all but dead. However, the decision was made to proceed with production.
THE OSPREY GOES TO WAR
- Finally, in 2007 a Osprey squadron deployed to Iraq ("After a quarter century of struggle and sorrow, at a cost of $ 22 billion and thirty lives, the Marines were sending the unorthodox flying machine they had staked their future on into a combat zone for the first time.")
- "Pleased with the Osprey’s performance there, the Marines sent a dozen MV-22Bs to Afghanistan in November 2009"
***** ***** ***** *****
HV2A Vertaplane- "In the Herrick design, a symmetrical airfoil-shaped rotor was mounted on a horizontal hinge about which it could rotate within certain limits. When flying as a biplane, the upper wing could be prevented from rotating by braces connected to its pylon. When rotating, the wing then assumed the character of an autorotative system."
April 22, 1931
Washington, DC- Aviation history was made today when James G. Ray, noted airman and Vice President of the Pitcairn Cierva Autogiro Company, landed one of the odd windmill craft on the South Grounds of the White House and, after receiving the congratulations of the President, took off again from the same cramped space. Photo shows the plane leaving the White House grounds. Note the acute angle at which it is climbing.
The Focke Wulf FW-61 was the first fully controllable helicopter in the world. It had an airframe that was based on a training aircraft. It was powered by a 108 hp motor in the nose of the aircraft.
Two weeks after Nazi Germany’s September 1, 1939, invasion of Poland ignited World War II, Sikorsky flew the first successful helicopter in the United States at Stratford, his VS-300.
"Wheel of Misfortune" representing the various attempts at this type of aircraft.
Bell XV-3 Convertiplane
In 1973, NASA and the Army gave Bell a $26,415,000 contract to build two copies of the sleek little two-seat tiltrotor the company had designed, which except for its rotors looked a lot like an executive jet. NASA designated it the XV-15.
1980s video of XV-15:
3D animation of second deadly crash; Marana, AZ ("vortex ring vortex" attributed to the crash due to a too-rapid rate of descent into its own propwash):
'60 Minutes' (intro only) story on the Osprey, which did not help the public relations for the program:
16 Sept, 2003
XV-15 donated to Smithsonian Museum
May 2, 2008
Initial Osprey Deployment The Deputy Commandant for Marine Corps Aviation LtGen George Trautman and three members of the Marine Corps' first operational Osprey squadron talked about the initial combat deployment of the MV-22 Osprey. They responded to reporters' questions.
Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (VMM-263) deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in September 2007 and returned the previous week. They were the first unit to take the MV-22 Osprey into combat.
May 2016 - pilots of Osprey that crashed in Marana found not responsible: