Marines Still Back Osprey
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 9, 2001 The Marine Corps has not started a search for a replacement to the embattled V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, contrary to news reports.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Jones answered a front-page story in The New York Times. The story said the recent V-22 crashes that killed 23 Marines and the allegation that a Marine Corps officer ordered subordinates to falsify records has caused the Corps to look at replacing the Osprey.
"There has been no watershed event that has prompted me to ask for a search of options, or a study of alternatives to the Osprey, and I have not done so," Jones said in a written response to the article. "Nor have I any new information that would lead me to believe that this important program is 'in peril.'"
The entire MV-22 program is already being investigated by an independent commission. The Marine Corps requested a delay in the decision to move the Osprey to full-rate production. DoD officials said they expect the review panel to present its findings in April.
The investigation follows a crash in December that killed the four-man crew. On April 8, 2000, an Osprey crash in Arizona killed 19 Marines. The aircraft has been grounded since the second crash.
"Following the December mishap in North Carolina, I asked the secretary of defense to convene an independent study panel to review the program in its entirety," Jones said. "Until the results of this expert panel are available, the Marine Corps must withhold a portion of its advocacy for obvious reasons. In no way should this be construed as a departure from our intent and determination in placing the safest and best technology in the hands of our Marines. Until proven otherwise, the V-22 remains the program of choice."
In addition to the independent panel, the DoD inspector general is looking into allegations that Marine Lt. Col. Odin F. Leberman ordered subordinates to falsify V-22 maintenance records. Leberman was the commander of Marine Medium Tilt-Rotor Squadron 204 and is alleged to have wanted the records to reflect a higher ready rate than the facts warranted.
Current plans call for the Marines to purchase 360 MV-22Bs, the Air Force to buy 50 CV-22A special operations aircraft and the Navy to purchase 48 HV-22Bs. The Air Force has two test Ospreys at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The aircraft are covered by the Marine Corps grounding order. The Air Force plans to start training crews for the aircraft in September 2003, with initial operating capability set for February 2005 at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
There are a total of 12 Osprey aircraft. The Marine Corps has eight, two test aircraft are at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and the Air Force has the rest.
Related Site of Interest:U.S. Marine Corps Press Release: Marine Commandant remains in support of V-22, March 7, 2001