The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The more things change...

Harper's takes a link-intensive look at the Osprey V-22, which seems to be the missile defense of combat aircraft. Unfortunately, it takes more to destroy a boondoggle than the defeat of one loony Congressman.

Now that the Pelosi coronation is over, the new Congress should take a look at the V-22 Osprey, a boondoggle by Bell Helicopter Textron and Boeing. The V-22, which takes off like a helicopter but flies like an airplane, has been in development for 25 years and had its first test flight in 1989. So far, huge cost overruns and development problems have caused it to miss deployment to Bosnia (1995), Afghanistan (2001), and Iraq (2003).

The Osprey has countless technological bells and whistles that drive up costs (and profits), and as a result it's an extraordinarily complex piece of machinery—and thus prone to failure. There have been four Osprey crashes so far, including a 2000 incident which killed 19 marines, and the Center for Defense Information has issued a new report called “V-22 Osprey: Wonder Weapon or Widow Maker?,” which suggests that the project be canned. Harry Dunn, an Air Force veteran, former pilot, and aerospace engineer who served in Vietnam and worked on the Hill for 21 years as a military liaison with Congress, sent me the emergency procedures checklist (1.8M PDF) for the V-22. At 144 confusing, overly detailed pages, Dunn said, it is “beyond any pilot.”

I've written before about Congressman Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, who loved the V-22 like a child. He lost his seat last fall, and will be replaced by Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat from Hawaii, as chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical air and land forces. Abercrombie has been a strong critic of the Iraq war—but he's also a big backer of the V-22, and the Pentagon has said that it hopes to dispatch V-22s to Iraq later this year.