Medium Lift Replacement: What Is The Answer?
SUBJECT AREA - Aviation
United States Marine Corps
Command and Staff College
Marine Corps University
Marine Corps Combat Development Command
Quantico, Virginia 22134-5068
RESEARCH AND WRITING
Title: Medium Lift Replacement: What is the answer?
Colonel Robert J. Berens, USA(ret.)
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for Written Communication
Major Joseph C. Shusko
United States Marine Corps
March 29, 1993
Title: Medium Lift Replacement: What is the answer?
Author: Major Joseph C. Shusko
Thesis: A thorough understanding of the unanswered questions and
issues of the MV-22 Osprey highlights the need to
reevaluate its characteristics, and if found unsuitable
an alternative should be selected as the medium lift
replacement to meet the threats of the 21st Century.
Background: The Marine Corps is planning to field a fleet of 552
MV-22 Osprey aircraft to replace the CH-46E. The MV-22
has been riddled with problems, cancellations and
accidents which make it too costly to pursue. There are
alternative airframes which meet all requirements for
medium lift at an affordable cost. The CH-46X or the
BV-360 helicopter offer the Marine Corps advanced
capabilities unavailable with the CH-46E. During a time
when budgets are tight, the Corps needs to put the MV-22
back on the shelf and get back in the business of war
fighting with assets affordable to the Corps.
Recommendations: The Marine Corps should purchase the CH-46X or
the BV-360 to meet the medium lift requirements of the
present and the future. Both aircraft offer the
capabilities needed to replace the ageing CH-46E at an
MEDIUM LIFT REPLACEMENT: WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
Thesis: A thorough understanding of the unanswered questions and
issues of the MV-22 Osprey highlights the need to reevaluate its
characteristics, and if found unsuitable an alternative should be
selected as the medium lift replacement to meet the threats of
the 21st Century.
I. Historical review of the problem
A. Ageing CH-46
B. Where the CH-46 is today
II. The search for the replacement
B. The Battles
C. The Choice: MV-22
III. The MV-22
B. Problems/unanswered questions
C. Where the MV-22 is today
IV. The Solutions
MEDIUM LIFT REPLACEMENT: WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
by Major Joseph C. Shusko USMC
The United States Marine Corps (USMC) has long recognized the
importance of having aircraft with a vertical or short takeoff
and landing (V/STOL) capability. The Department of Defense began
sponsoring research and development in this field with the Bell
designed XV-3 in the mid 1950's, an aircraft that proved the
feasibility of the tiltrotor concept. The XV-15 program, jointly
sponsored by the Army, Navy and NASA, conclusively confirmed the
validity of the tiltrotor concept in the 1970's. The XV-15
evolved into the full scale MV-22, or commonly known as the
"Osprey." It culminated 30-plus years of tiltrotor research
and development by the United States Government and American
Industry. But is the Osprey the answer to the shortfall Marine
Aviation is experiencing with the ageing CH-46E helicopter? A
thorough understanding of the unanswered questions and issues of
the MV-22 Osprey highlights the need to reevaluate its
characteristics, and if found unsuitable an alternative should
be selected as the medium lift replacement to meet the threats of
the 21st Century.
The United States Marine Corps has been flying the CH-46 Sea
knight helicopter, commonly known as the "Phrog," since 1962.
The Phrog is a descendant of Boeing's first turbine-powered
helicopter--the Boeing 107--which first appeared in 1958, (7:14)
and which is still flying various missions throughout the world.
In 1961, the USMC picked the CH-46 as its new medium-lift troop
transport, replacing the ageing UK-34. Over 600 Phrogs were
delivered to the USMC between 1962 and 1971. Today, fewer than
250 airframes are still flying in the Corps.
To keep the remaining CH-46 aircraft flying, the aircraft
have gone through four major airframe and component upgrades to
include the CH-46D/F/E, and most recently, in 1989, with the
Safety, Reliability and Maintainability (SR&M) program. Twenty-
six modifications went into each SR&M airframe with the goal of
extending the life of the Phrogs into the 1990's. The current
upgrade to the Phrog is half way through completion. These
upgrades, an emergency aircraft flotation system, an improved
navigation system, an expanded stubwing fuel system, and a
night-vision goggle kit will once again help the Phrog get to the
21st Century. In 1994, the CH-46 will receive engine condition
control system kits, and in 1995, dynamic components will be
replaced in all CH-46 aircraft. The kits are designed to improve
operating costs and operational capabilities while waiting for
its planned replacement, the MV-22 Osprey. Until then, the
CH-46E SR&M aircraft still remains the ultimate workhorse for the
United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps.
The Phrog has been the primary assault vehicle of the Marines
for over 30 years now. During those years Phrogs have seen
combat in almost every conflict since Vietnam. During Desert
Shield/Desert Storm, Phrogs led the way in providing essential
airborne mobility of troops and logistics for the Marine
Expeditionary Force and for the Amphibious Forces Afloat. One
hundred and twenty airframes flew 1601 sorties for a total of
7345 hours at a 90 percent mission capable/76 percent full
mission capable rate.(8:9) The only other aircraft community
with comparable statistics was the F/A-18C.
The closest helicopter to match the successful accomplishments of
the Phrog was the AH-1 Cobra. It flew 78 airframes for a total
of 3014 hours, achieving a 90 percent mission capable/72 percent
full mission capable rate.
The Commander on the battlefield has always depended on the
medium lift capabilities of the Phrog. Those capabilities helped
shape the ground combat element's strengths against the
opponent's weaknesses. During the war the "Battle Phrog"
performed the following missions:
1. Search and Rescue
2. Troop transport
3. Cargo transport
4. Medical evacuation
5. Vertical replenishment
6. Reconnaissance inserts and extractions
8. Prisoner of War transfer
Nowhere else has the Phrog performed as well, as it did
in the Desert war. As Desert Shield/Desert Storm demonstrated,
the Phrog is still the best helicopter around.
The USMC has recently received the last CH-46E SR&M aircraft
from the rework facility in Cherry Point, North Carolina.
However, reworked airframes are getting old and carry with them a
number of shortcomings that require attention:
1. In an amphibious assault, the Phrog is power limited and
when fully loaded with packs and or troops it can only
fly at 110 to 120 knots;
2. The Phrog only has a 1.8 hour endurance span and a
combat radius of 50 to 70 miles;
3. The Phrog is limited to approximately 4500-pound
4. The Phrog fleet is rapidly approaching its service life
of 30 years or 10,000 flight hours (The high time
aircraft, built 30 years ago, is still flying logging
operations 10 hours a day for Columbia Helicopters in
Oregon, and now has accumulated over 38,000 hours.)
5. The Phrog is limited to carrying a Marine Squad of
16 to 18 troops;
6. Finally, the Phrog incorporates a lot of old technology
that is getting harder to obtain, and at a very high
In spite of its shortcomings, the Phrog brings a lot of
credibility to the table where alternatives cannot.
The aircraft the USMC chose to replace the Phrog was the
MV-22 Osprey. The USMC looked at several options:
1. The Anglo-Italian EH-101;
2. The CH-60 Black Hawk and the CH-53E as a package;
3. The CH-46X;
4 The S-92;
5. The CH-47F;
6. The BV-360.
All the above offered advantages and disadvantages; however, none
offered as many advantages as the Osprey. But is the Osprey the
What then is the MV-22 Osprey? An Osprey is a tiltrotor
aircraft that can take off, hover, and land like a helicopter.
What makes this aircraft different from helicopters is its
capability to fly like an airplane by tilting its wingtip rotor
nacelles forward. But is this technology that everyone raves
about really so new? Can this aircraft perform at a level to
really give the Marine Corps an advanced capability? According
to Maj. T. Hanifen, coordinator of the medium helicopter program
in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation at Marine
the operational requirement for a medium-
lift aircraft was originally approved in 1969 and
established the need for an aircraft that could be used on
the Corps' amphibious and land assault missions.
USMC combat requirements specify an aircraft replacement capable
1. carrying 24 fully-equipped Marines;
2. a top speed of 180 knots is desired;
3. an uncalculated right radius at 200 nautical miles; and
4. the ability to carry a 10,000-pound external
As mentioned before, tiltrotor technology has been around
since the 1950's with such prototypes as the XV-3 and the VZ-2
tiltwing. (9:11) There is nothing so modern about the Osprey and
its unique capabilities, just as there is nothing so unique about
the tandem rotor concept of the CH-46 designed during the same
period. So why then are the Osprey proponents raving about the
"advanced technology" this aircraft brings to the table?
Arguably, it took the helicopter industry 40 years to perfect the
Be that as it may, the technology of the Osprey is now
available, but with many unproven capabilities which may not meet
the requirements expected of it. First let's look at the
many capabilities it does have. According to an article
published in the Spring '89 Amphibious Warfare Review:
The Osprey can cruise at 275 knots and achieve 300 knots
in a dash. It has a 400 nautical mile combat radius and can
fly for 4 hours with a load. The Osprey can self deploy up
to 2,100 nautical miles and is roughly twice as fast as a
helicopter with or without an external load. (12:27)
Boeing has recently published a fact sheet updating some of the
milestones the Osprey has achieved. Up until July 20, 1992, four
Osprey prototypes have accumulated 763.8 hours of flight time in
645 flights. During those flights the Osprey has flown at 294
knots in straight and level cruise, 349 knots in a shallow dive,
at night, accomplished simulated instrument flight, simulated
aerial refueling, engaging in formation flights and initial
shipboard compatibility tests, and, been tested in extreme-
All of the above statistics are impressive and would improve
the assault support characteristics of the Marine Corps, but can
the Osprey really accomplish everything the Corps is asking of
it? Can it really survive on today's battlefield better than a
helicopter? Bottom line, can the Marine Corps afford to buy an
aircraft that may cost up to $50 million dollars apiece?
When new aircraft are introduced, they usually come with
operational capabilities. With transport helicopters, one of the
most important capabilities is to externally lift specific
loads. The Osprey is designed to externally lift 15,000 pounds.
Can the Osprey lift its max external weight as advertised? To
date, the aircraft has externally lifted 4,000 pounds. (21:60)
The USMC needs this aircraft because we have no medium lift
capable aircraft that can externally lift the High Mobility
Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) weighing between 5,200 and
7,200 pounds, depending on its variance. If the Osprey cannot
lift a HMMWV and other USMC equipment, why buy it?
It's been the experience in the past when an aircraft rolls
out of the factory, the performance characteristics--cruise
airspeeds, maximum airspeeds, maximum external lift, etc.--do not
always measure up to their design capabilities. A good example
is with the CH-46. It was designed to carry 24 combat-equipped
Marines or 15 litters or 6,000-pound external payloads. The CH-
46 on its best day could not lift its designed external weight
limit. The Osprey is designed to carry 24 combat troops, or 12
litters, or 15,000 pounds of externals. Will it produce these
Has the Osprey actually operated in a sandy environment
comparable to the deserts of Saudi Arabia? The CH-53E has a
difficult time with the "brown-out" associated with landing in
sand. The Osprey, with a comparable footprint to the CH-53E,
will probably experience the same limitation. Will that restrict
the areas to which an Osprey can operate? What about landing
in a grassy environment? Can the Osprey operate in overgrown
grassy areas such as the areas in Vietnam without igniting the
grass from its exhaust? The last thing the USMC needs is another
aircraft with landing restrictions.
The Osprey has encountered severe vibration problems in
flight. As of August 8, 1990, about 86 deficiencies had been
noted, 33 of which were categorized as adversely affecting
aircraft airworthiness, primary or secondary mission capability,
crew effectiveness, or safety. (13:5) Understandably, most new
aircraft under development do encounter deficiencies, but what
is the status of those deficiencies?
According to the report mentioned in the above
paragraph, as of August 3, 1990, the Osprey was still 2,822
pounds overweight. (14:4) The contractor can probably eliminate
some of that excess weight, but at what cost to the operational
capabilities of the Osprey?
The Osprey has successfully operated aboard United States
Ships in 1990. According to Mr. Stanley W. Kandebo;
Shipboard compatibility tests performed recently on board
the USS Wasp confirmed that the tiltrotor is capable of
operating safely from U,S, Navy Amphibious assault ships.
He goes on to say;
According to Bell Boeing, no significant aircraft
controllability of flight control issues were raised by the
tests, but minor deficiencies in some systems were recorded.
Does the Osprey conform to the Navy's Safety Document(SD-572)
requirements for operating aircraft aboard U.S. Vessels? During
the initial sea trials the Osprey made a total of 9 landings to
spot 9--the aft-most landing spot on the LHD--and 6 landings on
spot 4. (19:38) Both of these spots are located either forward
or aft of the island. Why didn't the Osprey land adjacent to the
island, or even nose to tail to each other on adjacent spots?
The Navy's SD-572 requires an aircraft landing adjacent to an
island spot aboard an LHA to be 12 feet 8 inches from the island.
With the Osprey centered on the fore/aft centerline of landing
spots 5 and 6, the rotor clearance to the face of the island is
12.39 feet which does not conform to the minimum safe distance
required by the Navy. Adjacent to spot 5, platforms installed
inboard of the bridge wings make the minimum clearance of the
Osprey and the island 8.39 feet. (2:60) This report goes on
to talk about spot 6 and the minimum clearance of 10
feet to the island.
So, will the Navy relax its safety standards to accommodate
the Osprey? A problem can be foreseen when the seas are
rough and a pilot is forced to land on one of the spots with
limited clearance to the island under unstable conditions. How
can the USMC accomplish its future missions when the ships it
operates from cannot accommodate the Osprey? Will the way we
operate have to be changed to accommodate an aircraft not
compatible to our amphibious platforms? If one really looks at
the big picture, the ship will not be able to launch large
number of Ospreys to get the task force to shore because of
limited spotting. Based on the tests done by the Navy
Air Engineer Center, the clearances between turning Osprey's
aboard an LHA on landing spots 2 and 3, 3A and 4, and 8 and 9 do
not conform to the SD-573 requirements for a minimum clearance of
15 feet. (3:60)
These tests further substantiate the claim that the Ground
Commander of a Ground Combat Element(GCE) will not be able to get
his men and equipment to shore as fast as reported in
embellishments of the capabilities of the Osprey. The GCE
Commander will have to rely on other means or once again change
the way the Corps undertakes amphibious operations.
Based on the above facts, it's hard to believe that 178 MV-22A's
and 64 CH-53E's could lift 4944 men, 250 HMMWV's, 48 M-198's, 48
STTRUCK's, and 24 LAV's 50 NM's in 90 Minutes. (11:36)
If the Osprey can not line up nose to tail and launch from every
spot aboard the amphibious shipping, how can these numbers be
Another problem aboard ships that could prove to be fatal is
when an Osprey operates near fueling/defueling stations. With
the Osprey on the deck of a ship, the nacelles are approximately
51 inches above the ground. (4:22) Because of the physical
characteristics of the Osprey, one of its two-engine nacelles
will always overhang the deck edge during operations. This
represents a potential fire hazard vhen the aircraft operates
from particular LHD/LHA spots adjacent to catwalk aviation f
fueling/defueling stations. (5:141) It's too early to say, but
the heat and/or sparks from those nacelles could ignite the fuel
causing severe damage and possible loss of lives. Boeing is
installing exhaust deflectors on the nacelles of the Osprey for
shipboard operations. But will the deflectors work as
Once the force of Ospreys is launched from its amphibious
platforms, will the aircraft be able to survive the battlefield?
According to Major George J. Trautman, III;
... the modern battlefield is also full of weapons which are
so lethal that no amount of vulnerability design reduction
can fully counter their effects. Dedicated anti-aircraft
artillery (ZSU 23-4, ZU-23, S-60), surface-to-air missiles
(SA-6, SA-8,-SA-9, SA-13, and SA-14), air-to-air missiles
(AA-8, AA-11, air launched SA-14, AIM-9), anti-tank guided
missiles (AT-2, AT-3, AT-6), air-to-air guns (20-30 mm
cannon), bombs, artillery and mortars are just a few of the
systems the Osprey could face in combat. Given a direct
hit by any of these weapons, it is unlikely that the MV-22
would survive to fight another day. (22:12)
Historically speaking, the majority of helicopter losses have
occurred in the final transition phase to landing. During this
phase, the Osprey offers no advanced technology to defeat the
above mentioned threat as a conventional helicopter does. Sure
the Osprey is quicker than traditional helicopters, but flying at
250 knots is not enough to counter the threat it faces. The only
thing speed gives the Osprey is the ability to get to the landing
zone quicker--only to die in place quicker. Currently, the USMC
doctrine does not plan for any dedicated assets to escort the
Osprey at its speed. Once the Osprey flies out of range of Naval
Gun Fire, Artillery and all other organic fire support assets,
the GCE commander will be on his own in a potential hot landing
zone, unsupportable until the rest of the landing force catches
Finally, the biggest problem with the Osprey today revolves
around the money issue. How much will the Osprey cost? It
depends on who you ask. After reading countless volumes of
material about the Osprey, the one thing that comes out in most
of the readings is the difference in the amount of money a single
"fly-away", Osprey will cost, anywhere from $15 to $55 million
dollars per copy! Someone is obviously correct, but the
majority of guessers appear to be hedging. If the experts cannot
get on the band wagon and list the correct cost of the program,
why should Marines believe them when they advertise the possible
operational characteristics of the Osprey. In the long run, the
Osprey will not help the USMC or anyone else if the proponents
keep overstating the cost and capabilities of the Osprey. Here
are just a few of the quoted sources to the cost of the Osprey:
-The USMC, via point papers, fixed the unit flyaway cost at
- only $15 million back in 1986. (23:8)
-In the early stages of the Osprey program, the flyaway unit
cost was approximately $21 million, but by late 1986, the
cost was estimated between $28 and $32 million. Some
experts predict that number to increase up to $50-$55
million per Osprey. (16:18)
-In August of 1985, the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA)
calculated a unit flyaway cost at $26.1 million. A House
Armed Services Committee (HASC) staff member said the Osprey
would cost $35 million per copy. (24:8)
-At the time when Mr. Cheney cancelled the Osprey project,
the unit cost was around $28 million. Now the cost is
approximately $45 million. (10:53)
The Osprey does offer increased capabilities. But, during a
time when the national budget is so high, the Corps needs to
re-focus and force the development of the proven technology
incorporated in the Boeing 360, and transplant that technology
into the development of the CH-46"X". If the Osprey reaches
full production, at whatever price, it will eventuallly pinch
funds from a lot of other Department of Defense programs,
affecting the overall readiness of the Armed Forces. In an
interview conducted by Perer Jennings on ABC World News Tonight
aired on March 1st, 1992, ABC's John Martin said:
no matter how versatile or visionary it might be, the V-22 is
enormously expensive. Uncle Sam has spent four billion tax
dollars on designs and prototypes. Out of five prototypes,
two have crashed. One test pilot has quit. Trade
publications report complaints that Boeing rushed the
V-22 into a risky, fatal public performance.
One veteran aviation expert said:
Osprey's military version was unreliable, its commercial
In the interview, aviation consultant, Morten meyer said:
never has so much money been wasted to develop so little.
The future can be bright for the Osprey, especially in
the civilian community. The introduction of the Osprey has the
potential to revolutionalize air transportation in high density
areas. The trade opportunities with the rest of the world are
enormous if the United States (U.S.) produces the Osprey first.
It could mean a lot of jobs and billions of dollars to the U.S.
Currently, components for the Osprey are being manufactured by
2250-subcontractors located in 47 different states. (20:5) But
until the bugs are all worked out, an alternative
needs to be developed. The USMC cannot afford to delay any
longer. The Corps must make a decision on what aircraft best
meets the medium-lift requirements today.
Boeing developed a modernized version of the CH-46 that first
flew on the morning of June 10, 1987, opening a new chapter in
tandem-rotor technology. That aircraft was the BV-360, or the
"Son of Phrog." The 360 is a 1980's technology aircraft built
largely of composite materials. It is the largest composite
helicopter in the world. It resembles the "Phrog" with a number
of advanced systems and incorporates a number of proven cost-
efficient CH-47D systems. All of these systems have contributed
to the 360's increased airspeed, decreased weight, and improved
The 360 can fly at a comfortable 200 knots cruise airspeed
with a top speed of 214 knots. The 360 has a high-speed
articulating rotor system made of composite material that
incorporates a new transonic airfoil and a planform design that
can provide, according to Boeing, a 23 percent increase in cruise
efficiency and permit cruise speeds in excess of 200 knots.
The 360 is designed to operate at gross weights up to 48,000
pounds, with an initial design gross weight of 30,500 pounds.
The engines and transmission systems are all proven, cost-
efficient CH-47D components. The aircraft incorporates a state-
of-the-art glass cockpit comparable to the Osprey. The
360 utilizes the CH-47D load-stabilizing triple-cargo-hook system
designed to carry up to 18,000 pounds on the forward and aft
hooks and the center hook to handle up to 30,000 pounds. The 360
can carry the USMC 198 howitzer. The 360 can also carry 24 fully
combat troops or rig for 15 litters and fly a 200nm flight.
Another aircraft capable of meeting the medium-lift
requirements that encompasses all the proven, cost efficient
technology from the 360 is the CH-46X, which would cost a lot
less than the Osprey. The CH-46X or the BV-360 would allow the
USMC to accomplish all its assigned missions without changing the
way it conducts amphibious operations, at an affordable price.
Given the era of our present declining budget and increased debt,
the Osprey is simply not affordable. Let the civilian community
pick up the tab of its future development and let the USMC get
back into being the war fighters it's suppose to be, with a fleet
of upgraded CH-46"X"'s or BV-360's that will take the USMC to the
Since 1969, the USMC identified the need to replace the CH-
46 with a new platform. The push was on for industry to develop
an aircraft that would meet the medium lift requirements that
would take the USMC well into the 21st Century. Twenty-four years
later, the replacement has not arrived. The MV-22 was chosen as
the replacement, but it has not met the standards required, or
brought out in this paper. Traditional helicopters have proven
themselves time and time again. They may not match some of the
super technology the MV-22 has to offer, but if the USMC is to
progress into the 21st Century, the 360 or the CH-46"X" just be
selected because the funds just are not in the budget to be
producing 50 million dollar helicopters!
1. ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT. Interview by Peter Jennings with
Mr. John Martin and Morten Beyer, March 1, 1992, 25.
2. Bloom, W. M. "Shipboard Capability/Supportability of the V-22
Aircraft." Report from the Naval Air Engineering Center,
Lakehurst, N.J., April 15, 1988, 60.
3. Ibid, 60.
4. Ibid, 22.
5. Ibid, 141.
6. Boeing Defense and Space Group. Fact sheet published by
Boeing Helicopter Company. October 1992, 1.
7. Boeing Transitions. Pamphlet published by Boeing Helicopter
Company. Fall 1987, 14.
8. Bioty, John R. "United States Marine Corps Aircraft
Munitions: per in Desert Storm." Marine Aviation brief for
the Secretary of Defense, September 10, 1991, 9.
9. Crouch, Michael. "The V-22: Can the Nation Afford to
Forgo its Production"? Naval Postgraduate School paper,
December 1991, 11.
10. Ibid, 53.
11. Darling, Colonel . "Warfighting the V-22." Amphibious
Warfare Review, Spring 1989, 36.
12. Ibid, 27.
13. Ferber, M.M. "Naval Aviation, The V-22 Osprey-Progress
and Problems." Report to the Ranking Minority Member,
Committee on Armed Service, House of Representatives."
October 1990, 5.
14. Ibid, 4.
15. Hooper, Evan W. "50 years of Tandem Rotor Helicopter
Engineering." Royal Aeronautical Society, London, October 6,
16. Johnson, LtCol. S.T. "The V-22 Osprey: Phoenix or
Albatross"? US Army War College paper, April 9, 1992,
17. Kandebo, S.W. "Shipboard Tests Confirm V-22 Operations
Capability." Aviation Week and Space Technology, January 14,
18. Ibid, 36.
19. Ibid, 38.
20. Ryan, David. "V-22 Osprey, Endangered Species." Graduate
Research paper #642 at Embry Riddle, November 8, 1990,
21. Spivey, Richard F. "The V-22 Osprey the aircraft that will
change the way the world flys." Amphibious Warfare Review."
Summer/Fall 1992, 60.
22. Trautman III, Major G.J. "Can the Osprey Survive in Combat:
An assessment of the MV-22 Combat Effectiveness." Naval War
College paper, February 16, 1988, 12.
23. Ibid, 8.
24. Ibid, 8.
25. "USMC to explore Medium-Lift Alternatives." Air Power,
November 1992, 37.
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