US Military Plans to Restore V-22 Ospreys to Flight

The U.S. military services are set to take a key step toward getting the fleet of V-22 Osprey aircraft back into the air when they present their plans to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday to resolve safety concerns stemming from the deadly crash. Occurred in Japan, according to Defense officials.

The US fleet of about 400 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has been grounded for 83 days following the crash of a US Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22B on November 29, 2023, in Japan, in which eight service members died. It’s unclear how quickly Austin will make a decision on the matter.

The Air Force has said it knows what went wrong on the Osprey, but it still doesn’t know why it failed. In the months since, the services have worked on a plan to mitigate the known material failure through additional safety controls and also by establishing a new, more conservative approach to how the Osprey is operated to work safely around the known problem, said a senior defense official familiar with the V-22 program.

Japan is the only international partner of the Osprey program and also grounded its fleet of 14 V-22s following the November 2023 accident.

The resumption of flights is a sensitive issue in the country, where public opinion on the Osprey is divided. One of the defense officials said that none of the American Ospreys would fly again until Japan had had a chance to weigh in on the military plan.

US Military Plans to Restore V-22 Ospreys to Flight
A US Air Force CV-22B Osprey assigned to the 352d Special Operations Wing

After that, each service would decide on its own return to flight. Not all services that operate tiltrotors would have to return their Ospreys to service simultaneously.

The V-22 Osprey can take off and land like a helicopter but then tilt its engines and rotor blades to fly like an airplane. This combination has allowed the services to travel long distances more quickly during military operations and land in places that are more difficult for normal aircraft.

Army-wide grounding has hit the Marine Corps hardest, which relies on more than 300 MV-22 Ospreys to carry out a significant portion of its aviation mission.

The Air Force Special Operations Command has about 50 CV-22B Ospreys. The Navy plans to replace its C-2 Greyhounds, which ferry passengers to aircraft carriers, with more than two dozen CMV-22 Ospreys.

The presidential fleet also uses a limited number of Ospreys to transport White House staff, security personnel and journalists. These are also grounded as of December 6, 2023.

A small number of Marine Corps MV-22s in Djibouti have been exempt from grounding since January 17 due to mission needs and have flown since then without incident.

The extraordinary decision to ground aircraft across the military in December 2023 reflected questions about the safety of the platform. Just before the November 2023 incident in Japan, an Osprey crash in August killed three Marines.

The first Ospreys did not enter service until 2007, after decades of testing. But more than 50 soldiers have died flight testing them or conducting training flights over the life of the program.

The loss of the Osprey has had an operational impact, but the return to flying will not be immediate and will continue to be high risk due to the time that those crews have been without flying.

Flight safety depends on pilots maintaining aircraft standards, that is, flying with sufficient regularity to master all types of flight, such as night missions, close formation flying, and refueling. The senior defense official said it would take at least 30 days to get crews flying once the grounding is lifted.

The services have also had to make sure planes are ready. Both the Air Force and the Marine Corps have been running the Osprey’s engines; The Marines have been conducting ground movements to keep the aircraft operational.

Tara Copp and Lolita C. Baldor