By Loren B. Thompson, Ph.D.
There's sad news from our nation's capital this week friends. It turns out that the Marine Corps has been run for a quarter century by incompetent leaders who have worked closely with corrupt members of Congress to put young Marines in aircraft that will get them killed. The only thing that can save us from this cabal is courageous investigative reporting that reveals the rot destroying our defense establishment.
Oops -- my mistake! I just described the screenplay for Oliver Stone's next movie. The sad news from Washington I meant to discuss was the continuing erosion of Time Magazine's relevance in the modern world, as reflected in its goofy cover story this week about the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor that the Marine Corps and other military services are buying.
Time Magazine used to be a major force in American journalism, but now it is searching desperately for readers in a news market crowded with more engaging alternatives. Faced with the same extinction that claimed sister publication Life Magazine, Time is resorting to an old journalistic tool to hold market share -- sensationalism.
Since it's hard to be sensational if you have to report all the facts, Time reporter Mark Thompson has elected to include only the bad stuff. Unfortunately, this results in an account of the V-22's development that could only be true if the Marine Corps had been run by idiots for the last 25 years -- idiots who don't care about the fate of their fellow Marines in combat.
It isn't really necessary to rebut this ridiculous thesis, because the V-22 is deploying for combat in Iraq and we will soon have unambiguous indicators of its performance. But just for fun…
1. Time says the V-22 was so bad that even defense secretary Dick Cheney wanted to cancel it. Actually, Cheney killed a hundred major weapons programs in four years at the Pentagon, and V-22 was the one program he couldn't convince Congress to eliminate.
2. Time says the V-22 has suffered half a dozen major mishaps during development claiming 30 lives. That's true, but it fails to mention that the CH-46 helicopter the Osprey will replace suffered 44 major mishaps during its first five years of service.
3. Time says the V-22 should be equipped with a forward-firing gun to perform its assault support role. That will come as news to the military, since no assault support aircraft in the joint fleet carries a forward-firing gun.
4. Time says V-22 lacks the "autorotation" capacity that allows helicopters to descend to a survivable landing if engines fail. Well duh: V-22 isn't a helicopter. However, it has more unpowered glide capability than any chopper in the fleet.
5. Time says the latest version of V-22 is only ready to fly 62% of the time. The real mission-capable rate is 70% -- not bad for a new aircraft, and much better than the aging helicopters the Air Force uses for search and rescue in Iraq.
I could go on, but what's the point? There's no market for good news about weapons systems. But you're still going to be hearing a lot about the V-22 in Iraq, because any aircraft that combines the speed and range of airplanes with the vertical agility of helicopters will change the way we wage war.