09 December, 2023

US grounds V-22 Osprey

Reluctantly the United States Armed Forces has grounded all of its V-22 Osprey aircraft following a crash off the coast of Yakushima Island coast of Japan on 29th November.  

In the hours after the Japanese crash, which cost the lives of all eight service personnel onboard, the authorities of Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture requested that all Ospreys on the island chain be grounded. 

The Pentagon claims not to have had an official request to ground the strange-looking tilt-rotor craft but has finally confirmed the suspension of all operational activities until the cause of the crash is known.  The U.S. Navy's Naval Air Systems Command confirmed the grounding applies to all Navy’s variants of the aircraft, including the Marine Corps MV-22B, the Navy’s CMV-22B, V-22 and the CMV-22.

NAVAIR issued a statement which said:  “Preliminary investigation information indicates a potential materiel failure caused the mishap, but the underlying cause of the failure is unknown at this time.  While the mishap remains under investigation, we are implementing additional risk mitigation controls to ensure the safety of our service members. - The Joint Program Office continues to communicate and collaborate with all V-22 stakeholders and customers, including allied partners.”

Despite having a remarkable appearance and being seen around the world as part of the airborne entourage that accompanies the U.S. President on various trips, the  V-22 Osprey has had a rather troubled past. There have been somewhere in the region of 15 crashes of the type which caused the deaths of more than 60 service personnel. A particularly concerning record when you consider the U.S. Armed Forces have a fleet of less than 500 Osprey aircraft and the programme has cost many billions of dollars, some estimates are as high as $70 billion.   

However,  will the Osprey survive this latest grounding, will it soar to new heights in the months to come or has it become time to put these birds to bed for the final time?    I guess that's really just a question for after the current investigations are completed, or how much more money Boeing will pump into the programme to keep the authorities on side?