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HMM-263 Succeeds With Osprey

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  • HMM-263 Succeeds With Osprey

    This article was sent to me by a former CO of HMM-263
    S/F Gary
    HMM-263 '66-'67

    Ospreys Succeeding In Iraq, Marine Corps Says
    Raleigh News & Observer - December 14, 2007 - Pg. B4 - MILINET

    The first Marine squadron to fly the controversial Osprey tilt-rotor in a combat zone is doing well, and likely will be replaced in Iraq by another North Carolina Osprey squadron when it returns to the state this spring, a Marine spokesman said.

    Three Osprey squadrons are based at Marine Corps Air Station New River, including Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, which arrived in Iraq in October. Like that unit, its replacement probably would be stationed in Iraq about seven months, Maj. Eric Dent said.

    The Osprey takes off and lands like a helicopter. Once airborne, it can tilt its engines forward to fly like a plane.

    Before being put into service, the Osprey struggled through more than two decades of development, including soaring costs, maintenance problems and three crashes that killed 26 Marines and four civilians. There hasn't been a fatal crash since 2000, but a year ago, a Pentagon report said that frequent parts and system failures and other problems had hampered the aircraft's development.

    En route to Iraq, one Osprey had to set down twice in Jordan before it was finally repaired.

    Since then, though, the mission has gone well, Dent said.

    "Right now, it's going exactly as expected," Dent said. "They're flying a lot of missions, and have flown more than 1,000 hours already."

    There were a couple of days when only about half the squadron's 10 aircraft were available because of maintenance problems. The readiness rate has improved, though, to an average of about 80 percent, about the goal set by the Marines, he said.

    The Ospreys haven't been shot at yet. In the past year, Anbar province, where they are operating, has gone from the most dangerous part of Iraq to one of the most peaceful. The Marine Corps, which has been responsible for Anbar for much of the war, has successfully persuaded many tribal leaders there to stop fighting U.S. forces and instead help hunt down cells of terrorists with al-Qaida in Iraq.

    The squadron has been engaged mainly in moving passengers and cargo around the western Iraqi province, though it has also started "aeroscout" missions, carrying loads of Marines to areas where insurgents are suspected, Dent said. If there seems to be trouble, the Ospreys swoop in and unload troops to investigate.

    Marines do similar missions with helicopters, but Ospreys are faster and can cover more ground, Dent said.

    One reason the Ospreys' maintenance is going relatively well in Iraq is that the manufacturer, Bell-Boeing, sent about a dozen workers to augment the military service crews, Dent said.

    It's normal for manufacturers of aircraft and complex weapons systems to send representatives on deployments. It's hard to say what a normal number of contractors for an Osprey squadron would be, Dent said, as this is its first deployment and everyone involved is learning what "normal" means.

    The Marines fought hard for years to keep the Osprey program from being killed and are carefully controlling information about the aircraft's performance in Iraq. In two unusual moves, they have been funneling most questions about the deployment through a spokesman at the Pentagon -- Dent -- and initially prevented reporters from embedding with the unit. Dent said reporters embedded with other Marine units have since flown in the Ospreys and that the Marines would now consider requests to embed with the squadron.

  • #2
    Marines put Osprey to the test

    Sent to me by former CO of HMM-263
    S/F Gary

    Marines Put Bell Helicopter's Osprey To Test In Iraq

    Dallas Morning News - January 3, 2008 - MILINET

    ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – On a clear, cool December morning, two odd-looking military aircraft zip along 8,000 feet above the empty desert of western Iraq, preparing to perform a feat worthy of science fiction.

    As the V-22 Ospreys approach their dusty destination, a lonely Marine Corps outpost near the Syrian border, each craft's huge wingtip rotors, now serving as propellers, will steadily tilt upward – and in effect turn the two airplanes into helicopters to land.

    Over the past three months, the Osprey's trick of transforming itself has become an everyday sight over Anbar province, where 10 of the Texas-built tiltrotor transports have been flying in a combat zone for the first time in the V-22's tumultuous 24-year history.

    So far, the Osprey has defied the dire predictions of its most severe critics. Citing the V-22's record of four crashes and 30 deaths in test flights prior to 2001, some foes of the tiltrotor forecast more crashes and deaths in Iraq.

    As of Dec. 28, three months through a scheduled seven-month deployment, the 23 pilots of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, known as VMM-263, had logged 1,639 hours of flight time in Iraq, carried 6,826 passengers and delivered 631,837 pounds of cargo without a mishap or even a close call.

    That's good news not only for the Marines but also for Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. of Fort Worth and Boeing Co.'s helicopter division, near Philadelphia, which make the Osprey in a 50-50 partnership. About 2,500 Bell employees work on the Osprey in Fort Worth and Amarillo, where V-22s are assembled.

    The Marines plan to buy 360 Ospreys in all. The Air Force is set to purchase 50 and may buy more, for special operations. The companies hope to sell dozens more to the Navy and potential foreign customers as well. An unsuccessful first V-22 deployment could torpedo those sales.

    Headquartered at Asad, an isolated air base in the desert about 110 miles west of Baghdad, VMM-263's Ospreys spent their first two months in Iraq largely flying "general support" missions – hauling troops and supplies to and from forward operating bases.

    "As long as they keep using it like a truck, I think they'll probably be OK," said Philip Coyle, a former Pentagon weapons testing director and a longtime Osprey critic.

    In December, VMM-263 began to take on riskier tasks.

    On Dec. 6, two of the Ospreys carried 24 combat-loaded Marines and 24 Iraqi troops on a raid near Lake Tharthar, 150 miles north of Baghdad, to look for suspected insurgents.

    "It turned out to be a dry hole, there was nothing there," said Capt. Drew Norris, 30, of Dallas, a graduate of Jesuit College Preparatory School and Texas A&M University who was one of the pilots on the raid. As for the flight, he said, "It went off without a hitch."

    Two days later, two Ospreys were included for the first time in a well-established mission called "aeroscout," a sort of roving raid in which troops aboard helicopters search for insurgents by air. The ground troops commander scrubbed the mission when one Osprey needed to turn back to base because one of its four generators failed.

    The generator failure is symptomatic of one big question hanging over the Osprey in Iraq: Is the $70 million aircraft reliable enough, or does it break too often?

    One of the squadron's 10 Ospreys had to land in Jordan on the way into Iraq in October and spend a couple of days there being fixed after a wiring problem led the pilots to make a precautionary landing. Others have been grounded for days at a time for similar problems in Iraq.

    "That's the kind of thing that has plagued the Osprey, reliability failures of one kind or another," Mr. Coyle said.

    VMM-263 brought 14 contractor technicians with them to help deal with such problems, and the Marine Corps and contractors have taken pains to make sure the squadron gets all the parts it needs.

    The squadron's readiness rate in Iraq – how many aircraft are ready to fly – has varied from as low as 50 percent to 100 percent on a given day, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Carlos Rios, maintenance material control chief. But the key question is whether enough aircraft are available for the missions that the squadron is assigned, he said.

    Lt. Col. Paul Rock, commander of VMM-263, said his squadron had been forced to turn down taskings for lack of aircraft only "one or two days" during its first two months in Iraq.

    In addition to flying troops and supplies, meanwhile, the Ospreys have become a favorite way to fly for VIPs, such as generals who need a fast way to get to the Marines' forward operating bases, which have no runways. Anbar is roughly the size of South Carolina.

    The Osprey can take off and land like a helicopter but tilts its rotors all the way forward to fly like an airplane. That lets it fly more than twice as fast and far as the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters that the Marines are looking to replace. It cruises thousands of feet higher than helicopters.

    The debate over the V-22 is far from over, though, in part because while the Osprey is flying in a combat zone, there isn't much actual combat in that zone these days.

    When the Marines decided to send the Osprey to Iraq, Anbar was the hotbed of the Sunni Muslim insurgency that racked Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003. By the time the squadron arrived in October, Sunni rebels had turned against the jihadists affiliated with al-Qaeda and have been helping rather than attacking U.S. forces.

    Through mid-December, none of VMM-263's pilots had reported any evidence of being shot at, though some had seen tracer rounds well below them while flying at night.

    Under the circumstances, some critics might say that the Osprey isn't really being tested, but "people are too impatient," said V-22 advocate Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, a Washington think tank with close ties to the defense industry.

    "The kind of harrowing operations that people anticipated haven't occurred so far, but what we're learning about the V-22 in Iraq is that it can operate every day, it can perform a wide range of missions, and – at least so far – it does not have deficient reliability," he said. "However, there's a long way to go before we grasp the potential of this aircraft. This is just the beginning."

    --Richard Whittle is a freelance journalist based in Chevy Chase, Md., who covers military affairs for The Dallas Morning News. He is writing a book about the V-22 Osprey for Simon & Schuster.


    • #3
      Gary keep the updates coming!
      Semper Fi


      • #4
        VMM-263 and the MV-22 still gong strong

        "There’s nothing in the inventory that can keep up with the Osprey," said Lt. Col. Paul Rock, commander of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, which deployed here in late September. "This aircraft can scream across the ground."

        And that’s a big deal in a war zone still simmering with insurgents and terrorist-inspired upheaval. The more an aircraft can stay out of the danger zone the better.

        Over the last five months, the Osprey has flown myriad missions. But most of its hops have consisted of run-of-the-mill logistics runs: shepherding troops to widely scattered forward operating bases, flying in supplies and mail, shuttling commanders to meetings with tribal leaders and Iraqi security officials.

        But, while officials here don’t like to put it in such terms, the MV-22 has been put through its paces with an array of missions intended to push its limits and see just how much the helicopter/airplane hybrid can do.

        The Osprey squadron was tasked late last year with supporting a new mission dubbed "aeroscout," where a flight of Ospreys would swoop into an area with little U.S. military presence, drop off its load of Marines and wait there until the troops had scoured the area for enemy fighters and weapons caches. This was a tasking previously left almost exclusively to a squadron of shorter-range CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters, but commanders wanted to see how the Osprey -- which is in part being purchased by the Corps to replace the 53D -- would perform on such a mission.

        But sometimes the mission is less "kinetic," as commanders here like to say. For more than a month during the November-December timeframe, the Osprey was tasked with medivac missions in support of Army UH-60 Blackhawks. Since the Osprey has much greater range and speed than other helos, it can pick up and drop off wounded much more quickly than the CH-46 Sea Knight, the Corps’ primary medivac lifter.

        In once instance, an Osprey was dispatched to a remote outpost in western Iraq to pick up a Soldier with a routine, but serious, medical condition and flew the 130 mile round trip in less than an hour.

        "We can get that patient back during that critical ‘golden hour’ " during which medical attention can mean the difference between life and death, Rock said.

        Sure, commanders are singing the Osprey’s praises, but what do the pilots think?

        Though it took a little getting used to for Capt. Lee York, a former CH-46 pilot, the smoother controls and better situational awareness afforded by the advanced flight computers and navigation suite makes the job of flying the Osprey a lot easier.

        "In the Phrog, you had to stay on top of it constantly," York said during a daytime mission to a half dozen forward operating bases as far away as the Syrian border. "Phrog" is a term Marine pilots use to describe the CH-46 Sea Knight.

        "With all the technology [the Osprey] gives you … it makes it much easier to fly," York said.

        Pilots can set the Osprey on autopilot -- inputting speed, heading and altitude -- and sit back and almost relax for a while during the flight. The crew also feels a lot safer at the higher altitudes and speed the Osprey flies, staying out of range of most handheld surface to air missiles and small arms fire. And in sandy, brownout conditions and night operations with low-light, pilots can "hover couple" the Osprey and fly it into the LZ without touching the stick.

        But, like any aircraft deployed to a combat zone, the Osprey is not without its maintenance hiccups.

        Earlier in the deployment several of the squadron’s aircraft had a key part fail. At one point "there were a couple of days when we didn’t have an aircraft in the air" because of a shortage of replacement parts, said Lt. Col. Evan Leblanc, the squadron’s operations officer.

        After some arm-twisting at the top, Osprey manufacturers Bell Helicopter Textron and Boeing sent over replacement "slip rings" to get the birds back in the air.

        "Sometimes it seems like we need to send up a red star cluster when we need spare parts," Leblanc said. "But when we do, they just seem to materialize out of nowhere."

        In the maintenance hanger there was the usual grumbling about this part wearing out quicker than expected or surprise at that part holding up better than expected. One surprise for Osprey maintainers, however, is that the Moon-like dust here is less of a problem than the gritty sand of Arizona where a lot of MV-22 desert testing was conducted. The finer sand of Iraq is easier to blow out of engine parts and other tight spaces, maintainers said.

        But like any aircraft in a war zone, the Osprey has its good days and bad days.

        "It seems like these planes all talk to each other," said Sgt. Robert McGregor, a flight-line mechanic with VMM 263. When a part goes bad on one of them it goes bad on all of them, he said.

        Though most squadron Marines recognize the pressure they’re under to make this first combat deployment with the high-profile plane a success, leathernecks in the maintenance bays and airplane crews say their commanders have done a good job of keeping them focused on the mission rather than the scuttlebutt back home.

        One nine-year veteran of the program said he’s seen it all, and that while the Osprey does have its limitations, he’d rather be flying on this plane than the alternative.

        "The Osprey’s always going to have its critics," said Gunnery Sgt. Mike Brodeur, a crew chief with VMM 263, as he leaned through the cockpit door during a flight to al Rutbah. "When we first got these birds they were a nightmare … Now they’re a whole lot better."

        "This program’s come a long way," he added.
        Last edited by accs; 01-26-2008, 12:01. Reason: lack of link to article


        • #5
          Osprey doing well!

          Thanks Gary!
          Great news to hear, after all of the nay-sayers......Looks like it is starting off in a positive light in it's initial combat role.
          Semper Fidelis

          Phu Bai tower:
          YW-11 for Phu Bai DASC-
          Remember, These are "A" models!
          YW-11 BuNo-151939
          '65 Model CH-46A


          • #6
            What about support

            Every thing I read indicates (like this report) how well the V-22 preforms the given missions. As I said before, I have no doubt that the young Marines of today will do an outstanding job. My question is (given this birds speed and range) what are they going to use for escort protection when the zones turn major hot? Harriers can't get down a dirty like the gunships we had and we never had a Huey that could do 200 knots let alone cover the distance these birds do.


            • #7
              There will be answers to support on this fast bird. They are working on a Blackhawk that can do over 200+mph and Frank Piasaki and his company are working on it. Piasaki is who developed the H-21 which the CH-46 grew from. The Piasaki Blackhawk has a pusher prop in the tail and no tail rotor.
              Semper Fi


              • #8
                Originally posted by timothy View Post
                There will be answers to support on this fast bird. They are working on a Blackhawk that can do over 200+mph and Frank Piasaki and his company are working on it. Piasaki is who developed the H-21 which the CH-46 grew from. The Piasaki Blackhawk has a pusher prop in the tail and no tail rotor.
                Wonder if the airframe could handle a couple of 50 cal gattling guns cut through the skin on each side like the old "Puff's" or newer GV's. That way they would never be alone in a zone because the support didn't get the word. Besides, I hadn't heard that the Corp had acquired any Blackhawks...


                • #9
                  Bart do they have GV's with Gatling Guns? I didn't say they were getting Blackhawks, I said Piasaki is developing one. Who knows what the future will bring?
                  Semper Fi


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by timothy View Post
                    Bart do they have GV's with Gatling Guns? I didn't say they were getting Blackhawks, I said Piasaki is developing one. Who knows what the future will bring?
                    I didn't see them in country, just the 47 Puffs with 50 Cal's, GV's (130's) came along after I got home. On the military chanel they show them not only with Gatlings but I beleive they are 20MM gatlings. On this site they have some of the new Hueys posted with them (my guess would be 7.62's) but they are for sure gatlings. With the load capacity and cargo bay size of the V22, I'm suprised some of the crews haven't tryed to improvise and adapt them in (surley the brass would'nt slow them down).


                    • #11
                      Sorry Bart I misunderstood what you were calling a GV, I never heard a C-130 referred to as a GV. I worked on GV's in the civilian world as a corporate flight department mechanic. We had the Gulfstream GV corporate jet and Sikorsky S76 corporate helicopter. Total different animal then the C-130.
                      Semper Fi


                      • #12
                        The gatling-type weapons come in 7.62mm, 50cal, and 20mm. The GAU-2B(7.62) has been used on UH-1's for over 30 years as a crew-served weapon and was the turret gun on the first AH-1's before being replaced by a 20mm gun, it was also used on the C-117 Spookys/Puffs. The C-130 Specter(as I believe they're called now) use the 50cal and may also be using the 20mm version.
                        If I remember correctly, part of the rationale on not installing crew-served weapons on the V-22's was concerns that the composite airframes would not handle the firing vibrations without suffering stress cracks, along with safety concerns when flying in airplane mode(no lockout mode to prevent firing toward the forward sector). There's been alot of proposed weapon variations for the V-22, such as a turret gun or a ramp-mounted machinegun(doesn't do much good entering a hot LZ), but I don't believe any have been approved yet. It's been a long time since I retired so maybe the current V-22 Marines could provide a more current update.


                        • #13
                          Here is a list of the armament for the AC-130 gunships

                          "Armament: AC-130H: 40mm and 105mm cannons; AC-130U: 40mm and 105mm cannons and 25mm gatling gun. AC-130Us are being retrofitted with 30mm Mk-44 single barrel cannons in place of the 40mm cannon and the 25mm gatling gun."

                          and more information can be found at:



                          • #14
                            On a lighter note: VMM-263 still going strong!!

                            CLB-4, VMM-263 keep supplies moving in Iraq

                            Cpl. Scott T. McAdam Jr.

                            AL ASAD, Iraq (Jan. 22, 2008) – Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 4 and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 worked together to complete an external lift resupply mission utilizing the MV-22 Osprey Jan. 18.
                            Three MV-22 Ospreys transported a total of 32,000 pounds of food, water, clean laundry and mail from Al Qaim to landing zone Da Nang in the Al Anbar province.
                            According to Maj. John W. Spaid, a MV-22 pilot and assistant operations officer with VMM-263, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, the mission was significant because it was the first external lift assault support request assigned to VMM-263 in a combat zone.
                            “We did conduct one training mission to be prepared, but this is the first mission anybody has done in Iraq,” said 1st Lt. Dan Hinkson, executive officer of Transportation Support Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 3rd Marine Logistics Group.
                            According to Hinkson, in a counter insurgency environment, air resupply mitigates convoy requirements, exposing fewer servicemembers in this area of operations to improvised explosive device threats.
                            Typically, CLB-4 uses the CH-53E Super Stallion or CH-46E Sea Knight for air resupplies. Though the MV-22 is rated to carry less weight on an external lift mission than a CH-53E, it makes up for its weight limit with versatility and speed.
                            According to Lance Cpl. Mitchell A. Kronwinkler, a Helicopter Support Team Marine with CLB-4, the MV-22 gets to the loading zone faster than traditional rotor airframes.
                            “This airframe is particularly suited for remote locations,” said Spaid, a former CH-46E pilot. “If you have a forward operating base far away from our FOB, we can get out there quickly to do the mission.”
                            The MV-22 flies the same speed as other helicopters while in conversion mode with a load, but return to the pick-up site much faster, lifting more loads out in a shorter period of time, added Hinkson.
                            Marines from HST work together to accomplish external lift missions. Their duties include inspecting and preparing the cargo nets, slings and pre-staging all HST gear used. They also fill up the water containers, pick up and load all supplies to be airlifted then coordinate with the logistics Marines, air chief and landing zone ground team to ensure everyone is on the same page.
                            “They weigh, rig and stage loads, conduct pre-mission inspections and safety briefs,” said Hinkson. “During the mission, we focus heavily on safety. It is dangerous under the aircraft and the risk of static shock is high. Everyone is focused and we look out for one another.”
                            Though this was the first external lift resupply mission in combat for the Osprey, the landing support Marines with CLB-4 continue to look forward to working with the MV-22 in the future.
                            “It is a great experience for the Marines,” said Hinkson. “My goal is to get all of my Marines under the Osprey during our deployment.”


                            • #15
                              Here's the pusher Blackhawk:
                              Semper Fi