ROA calls for immediate grounding of Osprey aircraft

Aircraft first flight tested 34 years ago still crashing.

The Osprey was first flight tested 34 years ago and fielded to the military 15 years ago; by now it should work reliably. No other U.S. military aircraft exhibits the Osprey’s fatal propensities.”

— ROA executive director, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Jeffrey Phillips, U.S. Army

WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, December 1, 2023 / — With yet another fatal crash of the military’s V-22 Osprey aircraft, the Reserve Organization of America wrote Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin on Nov. 29 calling for the immediate grounding of the Osprey.  

The letter was sent in direct response to the fatal crash of the aircraft in Japan on Nov. 29. This disaster, which has claimed at least one life, is the second fatal Osprey crash in four months. In August, just one year after the Air Force cleared its grounding of Ospreys amid unresolved clutch problems, a Marine Corps Osprey crashed, killing three.

“Mounting evidence suggests that the V-22 Osprey is seriously flawed,” said ROA’s executive director, retired Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey E. Phillips. He wrote, “The Osprey was first flight tested 34 years ago and fielded to the military 15 years ago; by now it should work reliably. No other U.S. military aircraft exhibits the Osprey’s fatal propensities.” 

Reports state that the Osprey which crashed Wednesday into the sea off Japan was an Air Force aircraft. As of its crash, 16 V-22 Ospreys have been damaged beyond repair in accidents that have killed a total of 56 people. Four crashes killed a total of 30 people during testing from 1991 to 2000. While some crashes have been attributed to pilot error, since the V-22 became operational in 2007, 12 crashes, including two in combat zones, and several other accidents and incidents have killed 26 people.  

The V-22 Osprey is a combat aircraft with tiltrotor technology, which combines the vertical performance of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft. Various issues with the Osprey, however, can cause its uncontrollability with disastrous results. The Osprey in Wednesday’s fatal crash was reportedly inverted, with one of its engines on fire, before plunging into the sea.  

Serving and former service members have expressed to ROA their reluctance to fly in the Osprey. One Marine Corps reservist said he decided not to pursue pilot training because he might be assigned to fly the Osprey.  

“If given a choice to fly in the V-22 Osprey, I would not,” a retired Navy commander wrote. 

In ROA’s letter, Phillips wrote, “The evidence has mounted for more than a decade that, while the concept of tiltrotor “briefs well,” this example of the concept is simply not ready for prime time. For the time being, in its absence, other airlift assets would serve – must serve – in the Osprey’s place.” 

“How many more young warriors will die and be injured,” Phillips wrote, “some horribly, before we admit the problem and do the right thing? How much more dread– and potentially grieving – will we force on families and comrades?  Does the continued use of this aircraft enhance trust among families whose son or daughter may be considering service?” 

“The men and women who designed and make the Osprey certainly take justifiable pride in their work for the nation. That is not the issue. If the Osprey is still risking lives because of a reluctance to face a hard reality, that is an issue.” 

“The innovations underlying the Osprey’s advanced capabilities and the willingness and capacity of American industry to develop such a system are essential for modernization,” Phillips said. “Yet the development of military equipment comes at a cost, often a human cost. Sometimes the cost is too high, and we must take a step back for revaluation and, if possible, refinement. With the Osprey, now is that time.”

Matthew Schwartzman
Reserve Organization of America
[email protected]
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