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End Early Retirement

I am a retired Marine Corps aviator.  While on active duty as CO of the Harrier training Squadron in the late eighties, I tried to have people brought in as instructors from the outside, former well qualified Harrier pilots, and was shot down time and again for some extremely emotional and unsatisfactory reasons.  I even discussed this with DCS for aviation at HQMC and at the time had access to the highest levels, but was never able to make my case.

It appears things are much stricter in the pilot specific world today, but you are right on target with your thinking.  Speaking only of aviation issues because that is my background, long term, strategic thinking is what is needed.  Throwing massive amounts of money at the problem is both a short term fix and a long term failure.

Mechs, techs and pilots only get better with experience. Period.  Ask any of us who went to Vietnam with a hundred hours or so in an a/c if we would not liked to have had five hundred hours in type when we arrived.  This is still true today.  While there are many well qualified aviation types around today thanks to the recent op tempo, keeping these guys in uniform will remain critical after the Mideast has come and gone.

I have always been amazed at how emotion, tradition and preconceived ideas often overcome data and common sense.  I personally know many people who would have stayed in the MC until health kept them from flying or maintaining aircraft.

Good luck with your crusades.  I agree with many of your observations and comments.  We have spent our resources very unwisely these past twenty or so years.  When we could not detect a Chinese sub trailing a CBG and the Chinese can shoot down a satellite, one need only read the paper to realize our technology lead has evaporated or indeed, been overcome completely.  The next twenty years will present a new picture of global supremacy and we may not even be a significant part of the mix.

                                                                                 John Capito

Use the Skills of Older Marines

It is interesting that you have come to the conclusion that early retirement should come to an end.

I am a 64 year old retired Master Gunnery Sergeant.  I retired from the USMC at the ripe old age of 48.  At the time I moved my desk twenty feet and became a civilian contractor. 

While on active duty in 1969, I wrote a paper that addressed this same idea of ending early retirement.  My concern was not for the expense of the retirement budget but for the brain drain that the military experiences.  I was foolish enough to submit this idea through the chain of command, which of course did not meet with a favorable response. 

My proposal was to use selected senior personnel for such things as instructors, recruiters or advisors for non combat specialties that would free up troops for the combat arms fields.  The thought then as it is now that retirement pay is a right and not to be messed with.

While the retirement payroll has become expensive it pales to the loss of those qualified non-coms that have spent a total of 30 years at their specialties and have become the experts in their fields.  I still believe now as I did in 1969 that the military could find some use for these people. 

Good luck with your effort but I don't expect to see any change in my lifetime.


Military Retirement Too Generous

I think you were light on the subject.  Why do we foot 100% of the retirement bill in the first place?  I understand it is the military.  I get the sacrifice.  I get the difference between the military model and the corporate model.  But in the end, why do we pay 100% of the retirement and medical for those that retire?  Couple that with the obnoxious officer to enlisted ration in the US Army (1:4) and you get us footing a really high bill.  Why can’t we raise that ratio to something in the 1:36 range and fold the military retirement system into a super-401k type deal?  That way the personnel put in to it and the government matches up to certain percentage, eligible for drawing out at a certain age (earlier with penalties), etc.

I served…sure it was only one enlistment, but so what?  Service alone does not equal a free-ride.  And it shouldn’t.  Service costs this country.  And it is costing us for life…as you well pointed out.  I would never suggest that those that where wounded in combat, or in a training incident should not receive medal care for that wound our injury at no cost…  Nor would I suggest that those that served, much less retired while serving should not get some preferential treatment, but I believe there is a lot of gray between nothing…and being taken care of for life.

I really do feel that a civilian retirement model is needed.  Something logical.  Something fair.  And something that the service member contributes to…even if it is a great return…they should still contribute.

                                                                          Chris Louviere

Ed; Few give a damn about the future, which is why the US military is falling apart despite record budgets.  Since Congress opened the "concurrent receipt" floodgate two years ago, one in four retiring GIs claim that although they were fit for service, an old injury has arisen now that they are retiring so they deserve disability pay in addition to retirement.  This includes vague cases such as "heart disease" often the result of a lifetime of smoking.

Another little known costly fact is that 25% of disabled vets get VA pay and medical coverage for non-military related injuries.  If Joe taxpayer drives his car into a tree and can't work, he just gets a small sum from SSI, but if he is an army private with three months service, he gets SSI and VA disability pay and medical coverage for life, even if he was drunk when he hit that tree.  Meanwhile, the VA lacks funds to properly treat disabled combat vets.

Long Time Doubts about the Osprey

I flew '46s on AD from '81 to '85 and in the USMCR from '85 to '90.

I was a young 1st Lieutenant in '82 when we went to the New River base theater to hear about the V-22.  During the entire presentation, even I, an extremely newbie co-pilot, knew the V-22 was ridiculous.  Couldn't be supported at that time by ANYTHING in the arsenal and I guess it still can't.  I did think it was poetic that the bitchin Harrier guys headed up the program with literally NO helo guys in the program office at that time.

The absolute best part of the briefing was when a Mogan David awarded Major stood up and went through a textbook heliborne assault.  He was very serious, very respectful, and although no one laughed, hysterically funny.  If I remember right, his last question to the General was something like, "who goes in to pick up the Marines dug in at the beach or do they try to re-embark on the molten puddles that were once V-22s?"

One thing that is sad is that a good guy like McCorkel bought into this Rube Goldberg.  Let me comment on other issues you raised in earlier articles.

"since the Cobras cannot fly as fast as V-22s, do the V-22s go on without them?"

Yeah, we pondered that back in '82.  The brain surgeons at OP 05 said that the Ospreys will have to circle near the LZ to wait for the snakes.  Hopefully, the enemy is as stupid as the planners/supporters of the V-22 and won't have a clue why the big funny looking airplanes are circling the wagons, nor will they wonder where they're going.  Brilliant.

"so they have a 250ft minimum separation limit between V-22s"

250 feet??!! separation for zone diving?  Are you kidding?  So the guys from dash last will have to hike HALF a mile to get to the guys from dash one?  The ground guys must be thrilled to get to be supported by this thing. 

"where they did only 33 of the planned 300 hours of shipboard night flying during OPEVAL II."

Sounds like all they did was fly the five required night boat landings per guy to satisfy NATOPS mins.

"so notice the deck spots near the edge, with one rotor off the side."

Yeah, one disk in a HIGE and the other in a HOGE then add pitch and roll (I wonder what those NATOPS limits are) and the seat cushion would be up around the tonsils.  If the computer crashes right at takeoff or landing with that one second reboot time, somebody's getting wet.

So, you must know guys (like I do) who roll their eyes at the V-22, but since they're on AD (like Larry King), they have to smile and do a thumbs up.  Very sad.

I flew with Bill Taylor, the current program manager, back when he and I were in 365.  Poor guy must be flummoxed beyond belief.  Bill was a real no bullshit, quiet and VERY smart guy.  His latest comments: .

 "That's where the V-22 is desperately needed. It's the capability that it brings to the table: twice as fast as a 46, three times the payload and five to six times the range."

He was in that briefing in '82 and was shaking his head, rolling his eyes like the rest of us.  I guess the V-22 is desperately needed if it could actually do the things the Marine Corps needs it to do.  I guess things never change.

                                                                          Ken Russell
                                                                    "Larry the Logger"

V-22 Flawed

   My son recently made me aware of your website and your interest in the MV-22 Osprey.  I am a retired Marine aviator who loves the Corps and all it stands for.  I was a test pilot at NATC Patuxent River from 1978 to 1981.  I read your recent article and the related links with great interest.

   Various authors speak of fundamental design flaws, but I'm not sure that they go deeply enough into fundamental rotary-wing aerodynamics.  Despite the self-serving rhetoric of calling the Osprey a hybrid aircraft it exhibits, when in vertical mode, the aerodynamic characteristics of all rotary-winged aircraft.  For example, the dramatic (and potentially catastrophic) roll effect when crossing the deck in shipboard landings and takeoffs is the result of one rotor being in ground effect while the other is out of ground effect.  An un-biased dynamic interface test would probably demonstrate that the Osprey is unsuitable for shipboard operations except under the most benign environmental conditions, considering the basic design.

   But the BASIC design flaw, which I don't believe has been thoroughly explored, and cannot be "fixed" regardless of the number of retrofits, is the fundamental aerodynamic concept of disc loading.  Fundamental rotary-wing aerodynamics explains that, when disc loading exceeds 10 lbs/sqft, there exists no survivable autorotative capability, and that maneuvering stability (Man-Stab) is lost.  When I say "fundamental" I mean that , at a disc loading of 9.8 lbs/sqft survivability is possible, and at 10.1 lbs/sqft it is not.

   At an empty weight of 33551 lbs the Osprey has a disc loading of approximately 14.8 lbs/sqft. At 47500 lbs the disc loading is nearly 21 lbs/sqft. It does not, under any circumstances, have a survivable autorotative capability.  Consider this:  The original Osprey design included free-wheeling units for autorotative capability.  Later, the requirement for autorotative capability was dismissed as "remote", forgetting such possibilities as fuel contamination (it happens, especially in field conditions) or combat damage, and the free-wheeling units were removed to save weight.

   In 1983 I attended a presentation concerning the future MV-22 Osprey, where basic design specifications were given.  I did a few rough calculations, and determined that this aircraft could not only not autorotate, but that it would enter power settling (VRS) if it exceeded a descent rate of 900 fpm.  I was wrong.  It turned out to be 800 fpm.

    Why was Marana a "pilot error" mishap?  In the fall of 1978 I crashed a pre-production prototype of the CH-53E helicopter while conducting hover testing. Two eye-witnesses described that they saw one of the rotor blades "come apart" and "fall off" the helicopter.  The first mishap board concluded cause undetermined.  The second mishap board, headed by a Major General, eliminated the eye-witness accounts and concluded pilot error.  The next week, a contract was signed for the delivery of the first production model CH-53E's.

   So "follow the money".  How many Congressmen/Senators have Osprey parts made in their district/state?  How many careers/livelihoods are dependent on a continuing Osprey program?  Sir, despite your best efforts, the MV-22 Osprey will not die.  That task is reserved for the Marines who fly it and are forced to ride in it.

                                   Greg Miller

                            Major, USMC(Ret)

Ed: There have been numerous reports of huge dust clouds caused by the V-22's heavy focused downwash (caused by high disc loading) in desert environments.  Not only is this a problem for those nearby, the V-22's rotors blow dust and debris back into the cabin, filling everything with a layer of sand and dust and fouling up equipment.  While the V-22 program has always denied this is a problem, the first V-22 squadron (VMM-263) posted some pictures of their recent training trip to the desert at NAF El Centro.  Even they made a sarcastic comment in the caption for the photo (right) "Is there an Osprey in there?"

News from Inside the Navy



Date: January 22, 2007

The V-22 Osprey, which may deploy to Iraq with Marines this year, suffered problems that hurt its mission effectiveness when the Air Force tested it for a month in the New Mexico desert, according to a new report from the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.

 The problems are described in the latest annual report from the Defense Department’s operational testing directorate, led by Charles McQueary.

 The V-22 is a helicopter-plane hybrid developed by Bell Helicopter Textron and Boeing. During an “operational utility evaluation” conducted last summer in the desert at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM, the effectiveness of the Osprey for training missions and potential combat missions was “degraded by poor aircraft availability,” says the report, issued Jan. 18.

 Frequent part and system failures, limited supply support, and high false alarm rates in the built-in diagnostic systems caused frequent flight delays and an excessive maintenance workload,” the report says.

 Some of the reliability problems “may be attributable to the extended exposure to the desert operating environment” where the assessment occurred, says the report.

 The Osprey provided only “marginal operational availability” during the 41 flights (74 flight hours), the report says.

 The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center conducted the assessment using four of the service’s CV-22 aircraft. The testing started June 6, 2006, and wrapped up July 10, said Katherine Gandara, a spokeswoman for the center. The final test flight for the assessment was conducted June 30, she said. All of the testing took place in the desert, she said.

 The Marine Corps version of the V-22 would likely suffer the same kinds of problems in desert conditions, a Pentagon source said.

 Both versions of the aircraft are very similar except the CV-22 has some extra equipment for special operations missions. The Air Force plans to buy 50 Ospreys for its special operations troops, while the Marine Corps plans to buy 360.

 The report urges the V-22 program to correct the deficiencies noted in the “operational utility evaluation” before the CV-22 begins its initial operational testing and evaluation in FY-08.

 The report also calls on the program to monitor the operational suitability of the Marine Corps’ Block B version of the Osprey, which is due to deploy this year, to determine the “discrepancy” between the solid performance reported in the operational evaluation of the Marine Corps version and the problems now coming to light.

 James Darcy, the Navy’s spokesman for the V-22 program, said the problems encountered in last summer’s testing involved both known and previously unknown issues.

 Program officials do not believe these issues will delay fielding plans for the Marine Corps or Air Force versions of the Osprey, he said.

 Darcy said the testing in New Mexico was originally intended to test the Air Force’s rigorous training curriculum. This was a “much more stressful evaluation” compared to the conditions and types of flights that the V-22 program anticipates on an actual deployment, he said.

 But Philip Coyle, a former director of operational testing and evaluation at the Pentagon, and now a senior adviser with the Center for Defense Information, said it is amazing how many reliability problems continue to affect the V-22.

 This produces a maintenance and support burden that the Marines really can’t afford,” he said. “All of the reliability problems that they continue to have here in the [United] States -- it’s going to drive them crazy overseas.”

-- Christopher J. Castelli

Ed: Since the CV-22 is clearly inferior to the MH-53J, the USAF has adopted a new spin.  The CV-22 is not replacing the MH-53J, it will just add a new capability.  Meanwhile, the ancient MH-53Js will be retired and there is no money to buy replacements as part of the Marine Corps' new CH-53K program, even though each CV-22 costs twice as much as the far more capable CH-53K, which has greater range too. Finally, the CV-22 is larger than the CH-53K (empty weight.)

These comments by a USAF SpecOps guy were forwarded to me:

1. airland troops on LZs  2. airland vehicles on LZs (47's and 53's)  3. fast rope troops on Targets 

1.CV-22 pax ACL? Half of the 53 that it is replacing. So number one goes to the Helo.  2. CV-22 vehicle capacity? Does not support any current SOF vehicle platform. USSOCOM in its embarrassment over this fact wasted millions of R&D dollars to CREATE a vehicle that would fit in the Osprey. No vehicle capable of completing a SOF mission that would also fit in an Osprey could be found. AFTER WASTING MILLIONS on vehicle R&D, number two STILL goes to the Helo. 3. Fast roping out of the CV-22. While possible, having actually done it during airframe evaluation, the whipping of the ropes made urban roof top insertion impossible. Again to avoid looking like a bunch of idiots, USSOCOM spent more R&D money to create a fast rope with a steel cable running down the center in an effort to reduce the whipping of the ropes.  Did not perform as advertised.  So in a 0-3 defeat, the CV-22 and V-22 have been determined by all customers that ride in them..... a piece of crap. 

Oh and one more thing since we are discussing Airframe survivability, how  many door gunners are on a CV-22? [zero] How many on a 53?" [two]

Army Fat

I read that GAO's Army Force Structure pdf.   It recaps some years old discussions between you and me. 

1.  The first is the distribution of troops between "Operational Army" and "Nonoperational Army" (TOE vs TDA).   The new goal is 355k operational of the 482k end strength target in 2011.   The decade has come to fix this number by federal statute.   80% operational will leave an overgenerous 20% allowance for the bureaucracy's padding, especially when we recall that US Civil Service and contractors are supposed to be fulfilling these sorts of tasks.  If I were dictator I'd establish 90% as the requirement and achieve it by rebasing the Army.

This still doesn't address the *composition* of the "Operational Army" and how it distributes its 355k.   As of this GAO report the Army is planning for 42 modular brigades.  355000/42 = 8,452 'operational' troops per brigade.  And these are two maneuver battalion brigades at that, or 84 maneuver battalions.   That translates to 4,226 troops per fielded battalion.  The 130k 'nonoperational' troops are additional to this.   But we're not done yet.  We still have to account for the almost totally non-combat US Army Reserve's contribution to the Regular Army's tail, both 'non-operational' and 'operational'.  All the efficiency measurements of translating personnel into combat strength deteriorate after this is done.  Ergo, the teeth gnashing in the report about how lean and difficult this will be to achieve is just another Potomac soft shoe performance.   

2.  Number of maneuver battalions in a modular brigade.  As recently as 2004 TRADOC studies stated brigades still needed three maneuver battalions.   The need for this number of maneuver battalions in US Army brigade size units has been repeatedly validated in every war since shortly before World War II.  Congress should prohibit further movement into this very dangerous experiment until after Congress holds further extensive hearings.  Retired generals should be prominently featured in these hearings.

However, neither GAO in the report or DoD in its rebuttal treat this as a really 'live' issue.  Ergo, I believe they are intending to round out with Army National Guard battalions when needed for higher intensity combat.  And GAO has been quietly told this.


The Value of Medals

Our awards system is something that has bothered me for a long time.  The comparison to third world dictators is an apt one.  Meaningless awards represent a lie and do far more harm to morale than help.  I have been asked to write myself up for an award on more than one occasion, I simply refuse to do that.  

The other thing that is troubling is an allotment of awards.  "Ok, the Colonel has 10 commendation medals and 20 achievement medals he wants to give out, if you know someone who you think should get one, turn in their recommendation." Ridiculous.


Air Force Medals 

I just read your article on medals. I am an Air Force NCO.  In my office, I've seen officers with medals wrapping over their shoulder.  When asked, some didn't even know what they were for...other than end of tour.  I am sure that some boards look for awards and decorations in their promotion process, but please.

As an enlisted member, awards count directly towards testing.  Many commander's and OIC's put their airmen in for medals because they think that earns them respect.  We recently welcomed a new airman into the office (E-5).  I was amazed to see that this 12 year airman had 7 achievement, 5 commendation, and two Meritorious Service medals...32 points (though only 25 count for testing).  This airman had deployed France filling an administrative position...commendation.  What about those who put their life on the line? 

Undoubtedly, he has been assigned with some of the officers who gladly approve medals for fun.

                                                                                Concerned and Patriotic

Ed:  I've noticed the USAF awards the most.  When I got back from Okinawa as a 1stLt, I had "earned" two ribbons.  We had to wear service uniforms on Friday's and my seat belt kept knocking mine off.  Since ribbons are optional with Marine Corps "Charlies" I stopped wearing them, mostly to shock anyone who asked. 

Cut Back Awards

First off I agree that the current system is over the top.  But I have a few comments...most decide. 

1).  I see no reason to just pick on officers.  If any service member does something "worthy" of a citation...they should get it.  And, it will not clean up the corruption.  I watched the same lower enlisted man receive the same medal 6 times.  In that same time period the rest of us in his section barely received 6 total...with the majority being see ya later medals.  The system is corrupt from the top down...and for both officers and enlisted

 2).  Not all POWs surrendered.  I would not count all those Naval Aviators and Air Force pilots as "surrendered".  Being shot down in a dog fight over enemy held territory and landing in the middle of a NVA rice paddy is not the same as surrendering.  But, perhaps other medals could convey the appreciation of a "grateful nation."

3).  Fixing the system includes fixing the culture.  The system can not change the politics and favoritism that exist at the Company and Battalion level.  So, having the grand council to dish out new rules without changing the mindset and culture of those at the bottom...will only change the paper...the medals...and the meaning...the corruption will remain. 


Ed: POWs can get the same medals as anyone else.  A silver star for escaping, a bronze star for a brave deed in camp, the purple heart for injuries.  But I don't like the idea of a blanket award for everyone, like a lost truck driver in Saudi who was taken prisoner for a week.  There have been many POWs who deserved court-martial for collaborating with the enemy, but action was rarely taken.  There have been many POWs who deserved higher awards for valor, but got the POW medal instead, like everyone else.

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