Osprey readiness a challenge years after troubling report
By Hope Hodge Seck
A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey from Joint Task Force 505 arrives with an earthquake victim at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal, May 16. JTF 505 along with other multinational forces and humanitarian relief organizations are currently in Nepal providing aid after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country, April 25 and a 7.3 earthquake on May 12. At Nepal’s request the U.S. government ordered JTF 505 to provide unique capabilities to assist Nepal. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. Hernan Vidana/Released)
The Marine Corps has made strides to improve standards for the MV-22B Osprey nearly two years after a following an October 2013 report that found unsettling evidence the service was deploying squadrons that were not mission-ready of unreliable data and readiness levels at half of what they should have been, officials said. But some problems persist, Marine aviation officials they acknowledged, due to high operational demand and a lack of resources.
An October 2013 The Defense Department Inspector General report examining Osprey mission capability rates and readiness was originally classified, but released to Marine Corps Times through a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this month.It found, among other things, that the Osprey material condition reporting, a metric that gauges aircraft readiness, ranged from 45 percent to 58 percent from Fiscal 2009 to 2011, far short of the goal of 82 percent. Moreover, investigators discovered that the maintenance and ready status of V-22s Ospreys at six squadrons surveyed was incorrectly or incompletely reported the vast majority of the time due. The report, which was originally classified, was released through a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this month.
The investigators found that crews with the squadrons surveyed were marking the tiltrotor aircraft as ready to deploy even if they weren't, due to inadequate training of maintenance personnel and lack of oversight from commanders. As a result, senior Defense Department or Marine Corps officials "Senior [Defense Department] and Marine Corps officials could have deployed MV-22 squadrons that were not prepared for missions," the report concludeds, troublingly.
The report also found that Osprey material condition reporting, a metric gauging aircraft readiness, ranged from 45 percent to 58 percent from Ffiscal 2009 to 2011, far short of the goal of 82 percent readiness.
During In the two-year survey period [[Hope, do you have the length of time on that? GH]], investigators found that:
Osprey maintenance personnel improperly recorded aircraft status information on 167 of 200 observed occasions, the report found. Reporting of a
Aircraft equipment condition was marked inaccurately recorded in 199 out of 265 readiness reports examined.
and r Reporting on and r Reporting of information reflecting the ability of a given unit to undertake its core mission was incomplete nearly half the time in 127 out of 265 reports.
More than 12 percent of In addition, 112 out of 907 work orders examined were found to have been incorrectly prepared by maintenance personnel.
In one case, investigators found that maintenance personnel with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, out of New River, North Carolina, replaced performed a replacement of a dead battery for one of the tiltrotor aircraft. But they reported that the Osprey was reported fully mission capable for the two weeks before the battery was fixed, making it possible the aircraft could have been flown in unsafe conditions.
An other inspection report cited in the investigation found that an Osprey from VMM-161, out of Miramar, California, had also been flown repeatedly, despite being restricted from flight operations, according to the investigation.
IG officials recommended that the Marine Corps require mandatory training for all Osprey maintenance personnel on how to complete mandatory training on readiness reports.
The investigators also said aircraft inventory reports and work orders should be tracked by the squadron to ensure accuracy and completeness; , investigators determinedInvestigators said Marine commanders should sign off on readiness reports to verify their accuracy; and the Corps' Commander's Readiness Handbook should include detailed examples of how leaders should add comments to reports on the condition of Marine equipment. It also asked for a revisions to the commander's readiness handbook from Marine Corps Plans, Policies and Operations should to include detailed examples of how commanders should add comments on equipment condition levels and requested that commanders sign off on readiness reports to verify their accuracy.
The Marine Corps' response
Nearly two years since the investigation, readiness rates have improved significantly for the Osprey, said Maj. Paul Greenberg, a spokesman for Marine Corps aviation at the Pentagon. The mission capable rate for the V-22 between July 2014 and June 2015 was 62 percent for stateside aircraft and 71 percent for deployed squadrons Ospreys.
While Greenberg said the service Marine Corps does not have a process for measuring the accuracy of internal reportingmetric for measuring reporting accuracy internally, he Greenberg said the Marine Corps has implemented more rigorous controls since the IG report's release.
"We have confidence in the professionalism of our Marine pilots and maintainers, but realize there is always room for improvement," he said. "A major component of improvement is enhancing our aviation maintenance training, to include better record keeping."
Greenberg said the Commander's Readiness Handbook, last updated completed in January Jan. 2014, streamlined procedures to improve quality control. Of the report's recommendations, he said the Marine Corps is also implemented the following:
All Marines reporting to Marine aircraft units and squadrons now are ensuring that squadron personnel attend required initial training.
Marines complete quarterly refresher training that is administered at the during unit level training periods.
The commander of U.S. Naval Forces implemented controls to ensure the accuracy and completeness of aircraft inventory readiness reports in September Sept. 2014 through a Navy Department-wide Naval message. Those ese updates were added into unit-level refresher training.
Greenberg said the Marine Corps stands by its their current, improved reporting procedures. However, he said that an intense mission schedule that included more than 178,000 flight hours in support of combat operations since 2007 has left V-22 units straining to keep up with demand, he said.
"We have outstripped our ability to fully train our enlisted maintainers to the density per squadron needed to achieve maximum readiness," he said.
An MV-22B Osprey prepares to take off at Saipan International Airport to tour of the areas affected by a recent typhoon there. The Osprey is one of the most in-demand Marine aircrafts for crisis response missions around the world.
Photo Credit: Mass Communication 3rd Class David A. Cox/Navy
As the operational demand for Ospreys has surged, In a surge to meet combatant commander operational demands, Greenberg said, "a combination of incomplete squadron transitions, reduced funding for maintenance and spare parts, and maintenance depot backlogs have led to an overall shortage of aircraft for the Marine Corps to train and deploy with."
Greenberg said all of Marine aviation squadrons are Corps aviation is participating in a Ready Basic Aircraft recovery plan designed to pinpoint readiness shortfalls and reset overtaxed aircraft as needed. An independent review of the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter just concluded in June, he said.
If the plan calls for changes to current policies and procedures, Greenberg said, they could take months or years to be implemented, "Changes concerned with RBA recovery require persistence and patience, as these initiatives may take months or years to come to fruition, depending on the complexity of the issue," he said. "However, pursuing recovery of current readiness, coupled with procurement of the next generation of Marine Corps aircraft, ensures an increased and lasting positive effect on Marine Aviation readiness."