Category Archives: Air and Naval Weapons

The Danish Navy, 1962

Even if you can’t follow the Danish narration, there is some very cool stuff in this 1962 promotional film, Det Er Nodvendig… which means, This is Necessary. The point of the film is to introduce Danes to their Navy.

One of the first cool things you will see is a flotilla of ex-Deutsche Kriegsmarine S-Boats. The boats don’t show their age at all — they were probably never this clean in their wartime existence.

Other scenes include the S-Boat crewmen introducing themselves by name and hometown, destroyer operations, coastal defense with artillery and AA, and Denmark’s famous frogmen. (The nation was once a leader in scout swimming and undersea war, but ceased operating submarines about a decade ago after nearly a century of successful sub ops).

On the other hand, the Danes maintain a robust coast defense capability, but these days it’s with missiles, not last century’s cannon.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Historic Naval Ships Association

The HNSA is a sort of online clearinghouse for information about museum ships and related facilities. As they put it on part of the website:

We promote visiting the world’s historic naval ships and advocate for the need to save these important vessels for future generations so that they may continue to proudly serve their countries in honor of those who served and continue to serve at sea.

There’s information about preserved ships around the world. In a brief visit, we saw that this rare (2 built) classified-until-2011 OSS infiltration semisubmersible boat codenamed Gimik, is just two hours away in Massachusetts…

gimik-underway

…but we also looked at pages for other vessels, like BAP Abtao, a sub that was built by Electric Boat for Peru and is on display in that Andean nation after a career that included over 5,000 dives and the rescue of the crew of another Peruvian sub sunk by collision.

We particularly like their reference library.

So what’sknow-your-pt-boat there? How about the text and some illustrations of a 1945 PT Boat manual, Know Your PT Boat. Written in a style reminiscent of the German Panzerfibel with cartoon illustrations, it gives the sailor newly assigned to PT Boats an overview of its systems and operations. Unfortunately, this version has been slightly bowdlerized; cartoons that made racist caricatures of Japanese have been removed. (And some haven’t).

Know Your PT Boat even deals with maintaining the refrigerator:

Your refrigerator can make ice cream, ice cubes, and frozen delights (especially good is frozen fruit cup). Once a Jap bullet punctured a refrigerator unit and drained it of all its freon. Several of the boats then decided to put armor plate about the refrigerator. So you see it’s really very important, for it contributes to the living comforts which are all too few in the Area. Your refrigerator pump and motor need servicing. Don’t let them wear down or overheat. To keep meat, your refrigerator must be in top shape. It is rare to have fresh meat and when issued it comes in 100-pound quantities. Hence the necessity for a good freeze or reefer. Have a drip pan properly placed or the meat juices will leak into the bilges and in a week you’ll be accused of carrying a dead Jap around in your bilges.

Of course, WeaponsMan.com readers will probably be most interested in the gunnery.

Don’t be like one boot who ducked down inside his “armored” turret during an attack and then later when he discovered that the turret was made of 3/4″ plywood he fainted.

Aside from the actual firing of the guns the important thing is the preparation. Everything must be in perfect operating order. “Be Prepared” is not just a Boy Scout motto, it is the watchword of every fighting ship. You can make no excuses to the Japs for a jammed 50, a weak drive spring, or a 20-mm. magazine with no tension on it. The guns must fire when you want them. They will, only if you have done your drills so that you can do everything automatically. Strip your guns regularly, exercise the springs, and make other routine checks. Then you will know in times of action how to put tension on a magazine and how to blind load.

37-mm. Gun.-To the “Barge Hunters” this is a fondly loved gun. Its flexibility, ease of firing, destructive power, and flat trajectory make it a grand gun against targets at moderate range. A 37-mm. seldom jams of itself. The few jams that do occur are usually traced to faulty ammunition.

20-mm. Gun.-This gun is so powerful that it has earned the name “cannon.” When you hit something with a 20-mm., you really do some damage. Not small punctures but gaping holes are the marks left on the enemy by this powerful shell. Aside from the usual preparation and care of a 20-mm., the following are helpful hints:

  1. Precaution must be taken in clearing a 20-mm. jam. Always have a bucket of water on hand. When a jam occurs, souse the breech and barrel. If you cannot get the projectile out in a few seconds, secure the gun for about 5 minutes. In any case, never stick your nose or fingers into the breech. Keep clear and use your ram rod.
  2. Practice cocking of the 20-mm. It is a tricky operation and should be done speedily and with ease, especially in the dark. It is the only war to clear a jam, and to get the gun set to fire again.
  3. The loader must get a rhythm in his task and eliminate groping at night. The gunner and loader who drill in the daylight with their eyes closed are doing a wise thing. The magazine is quite heavy. On a high trunnion gun, the loader should be both strong and tall.20mm-spring-cartoon
  4. Be sure that prior to any imminent action all magazines are on full tension at 60 pounds. If your magazines have been in use a long time, it is wise to pull out a few rounds before loading, but be sure you still have on the full tension. This precaution will give the last few rounds in your magazine an extra push and will prevent jamming.

There’s a lot more in Know Your PT Boat, but it’s only one of the features to be found on this site.

Danish North Sea Ejection, 2015

Bad day at the office has about the best possible outcome:

As the caption to the YouTube says:

Den 27. oktober 2015 skød en dansk F-16 pilot sig ud af sit fly over Nordsøen. Flyet kunne ikke lande sikkert på grund af et ødelagt landingsstel, og den sikreste vej ud, var via katapultsædet. Piloten klarede den voldsomme tur uden varige mén, og her fortæller han sin historie.

Ah, yeah, in English (Hognose meatball translation, probably wrong; the video should have English subtitles, though):

On 27 Oct 15 a Danish F-16 pilot had to get out of his plane over the North Sea. The airplane could not be landed safely on account of a damaged landing gear, and the safest way out was via the ejection seat.  . and here he tells his story.

He had an unprecedented landing gear failure that left the extension strut that extends and braces the main gear leg shorn off the wing and dangling below the ruined wheel and tire, which then rotated about 90º to the direction of flight. (Normally, that extension strut is what keeps the lower part of the landing gear leg from rotating freely around the upper part. The leg is made in two parts to allow for oleopneumatic suspension).

Most of the video is this jet jockey describing the experience, but there’s other video inserted here and there, shot by the wingman and the rescue helicopter. That video shows the actual ejection, his parachute descent and water landing, and his helicopter rescue from the escape system’s survival life raft. He wasn’t in the water long enough to notice how cold it was!

He describes in greatest detail how he (with the help of his wingman, the Duty Ops officer, and the squadron’s experienced pilots back “home” at Skyddstrupp) worked through the decision and plan for the safest possible ejection. At each point where he might have panicked he instead told himself, “I’m OK, the plane is flying, I’ve got fuel, I’ve got time.”  As he says (using the English words!) Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.

Because it’s a talking head in a foreign language (except for our Danish WeaponsMan fans, both of you) some of you may not have the patience for it. We found it a gripping story, but we’d rather hear it over a beer — like his squadron mates did that night!

Air Force Proves Auto-Save Technology

One thing that’s killed a lot of pilots since the dawn of air combat maneuvering — or perhaps, since aircraft developed the structural strength to pull 5 or more Gs in the 1930s — is G-LOC, G Induced Loss of Consciousness. Basically, this is when you pull too much G (usually +G in the Z axis, eyeballs down) and conk out. Conking out while conducting ACM has a high probability of being a death sentence.

With modern fly-by-wire aircraft, does it have to be? There is no technical reason a modern autopilot system can’t be programmed to pull the plane up prior to terrain impact, and that’s what the F-16 Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) does.

Under development for 30-plus years, the system was tested and began being installed in the F-16 fleet three years ago. This year, it saved a foreign F-16 pilot being trained at the Arizona Air National Guard’s 152nd Fighter Squadron, which runs the Air Force’s international F-16 training program. Here’s the video of “Ocho’s” near-death experience, flying as #2 in Sully flight:

The peak G is seen just over the black secret-stuff box in the lower left quadrant, and the current “normal acceleration’ G is just above and to the right of the airspeed tape on the left. He’s doing OK as long as it’s just 5.7 or so, but when the G ramps up to over 7, you can see the jet go rubbery, as it rolls inverted and streaks for the desert. If you have time to watch it again, watch the airspeed tape, too. From a good maneuvering speed of 480 or so knots, he’s nearly at 700 before the recovery scrubs off some of the excess speed.

The thing is, “Ocho,” the pilot saved in this incident, wasn’t the first. Three other pilots’ lives have been saved by the system, and on combat missions as well as in training. Usually, the pilot quickly recovers from G-Loc when the excessive acceleration force is removed, but not always quickly enough to recover the plane. Now, in the Viper, the system takes over:

Auto GCAS is designed to prevent CFIT [Controlled Flight Into Terrain -Ed.] mishaps by executing an automatic recovery maneuver when terrain impact is imminent. The system predicts those conditions by means of a continuous comparison between a trajectory prediction and a terrain profile that is generated from onboard terrain elevation data. At the instant the predicted trajectory touches the terrain profile, the automatic recovery is executed by the Auto GCAS autopilot. The automatic recovery consists of an abrupt roll-to-upright and a nominal 5-G pull until terrain clearance is assured.

Computational power FTW. You can see this exact maneuver on the video. Ocho did recover and was on the stick and pulling up, but not as fast as the system. Might he have saved himself? He might. And he might have splatted the expensive jet and his own irreplaceable young self on the rocky surface of the Arizona desert, too.

Ocho and his instructor, Maj. Luke O’Sullivan (the guy you hear calling him, from a separate Viper, to “Recover!”), visited the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, to speak to the developers and testers of the system. The Air Force tells the whole story in a press release by Kenji Thuloweit. The engineers and testers knew about the previous saves, but they never got to meet one face-to-face before.

This advanced F-16 system is not yet available in other aircraft, but it should be able to be integrated in the software-centric F-22 and F-35 in the near future. And the Air Force is working to increase the capabilities  of the existing system.

Bad Day over the North Sea, 1975

Here’s audio-only 1975 peacetime ejection, resulting from a compression stall and inflight fire in an F-4E Phantom. Only the audio is live; the photographic slide show is a retrospectives on the mishap pilots career. The first 2 minutes, before the emergency audio begins , is accompanied by some pretty dreadful New Age music, so consider yourself warned.

The downed plane’s wingmen have a hard time coordinating the rescue for several reasons.

  • First, the weather’s crummy — not that they aren’t used to that, flying from England in the first place. But they have to fly low, under the overcast, and have limited visibility in the humid, misty air;
  • Second, crew visibility out of the F-4 Phantom, even with two sets of eyes per plane, is lousy. The jet was designed to grope its way to enemy targets by radar, and pilot visibility wasn’t something the designers at McDonnell took seriously in the 1950s. (This unlovely quality of the Phantom II is one reason the next generation — F-15 -16 and -18 — all had superior visibility).
  • Third, the lack of maneuverability of the F-4 (another artifact of its design as a missile-armed carrier-based interceptor) means that the pilot can’t simply turn around a point while keeping eyes on his buddy in his scroungy little raft, like he might have done in a 100-knot bugsmasher (or even a 150-knot C-130).
  • Fourth, the dynamic nature of the sea meant that the pilots and their rafts were easy to lose sight of in the waves, and that they were constantly being moved by wave action, currents, and especially wind — and so were the orbiting jets. It would be very difficult for an F-4 to orbit over a downed airman, or recover sight of one he’d lost his lock on, on terra firma; on the open ocean, it’s an order of magnitude more difficult.
  • Fifth, the state-of-the-art navigation system in the F-4E was unsuited for this task. It was  an inertial navigation system: good enough for bomb-dropping — if the bombs were nuclear. It was also prone to drift, to dump its data, and to lose its lock. And you could only put one thing in it at a time. (Listen to how nervous they were anytime the pilot had his navigator mess with the INS).

In the end, everybody got back home safe, with only one airplane lost (and one emergency-landed on a strip away from home). That’s a fantastic result, considering; every year of the Cold War, men ejected in these waters and died. Some of them were just never seen after bailing out. The water is so cold that surviving a night out here without an exposure suit (even in a survival raft) is probably not in the cards.

The wingmen really struggle to keep eyes on the ejectees, and to reacquire them when visual is lost. Not surprising: the deck is stacked against them.

The essential aerodynamic problem is that the F-4, despite having a very wide speed range, still had a speed range that was too high to let it operate with visual reference to a point on the ground. It’s a mathematical fact that the faster an airplane flies while orbiting in a turn of any given rate or at any given acceleration load, the bigger the circle has to get. The bigger the orbit, the greater the slant range to the airman in his raft (the slant range is the hypotenuse of an imaginary right triangle with its base the absolute range to the target and its height being the altitude above mean, or in this case, actual, sea level). The greater the slant range, the less of an arc the downed airman and his raft subtends in the eye of the orbiting airman — and the harder he is to see.

So how did these pilots beat the math and the aerodynamics, and get their two bailed-out buddies rescued? While dumb luck (or divine Providence) surely played a role, if you listen to that tape it seems like the key factor was sheer dogged persistence.

In the tag line of the greatest science-fiction series that never was, “Never give up. Never surrender!”

Thanks to the never-quit efforts of the crews of the orbiting Phantoms (not to mention the British rescue crews, and those merchant seamen or fishermen who turned their vessels towards the scene), two guys got to go home to their families, even as their jet sank forgotten in the muck at the bottom of the North Sea.

Air Safety, Circa 1955

Here’s a typical jet jock of the mid-1950s, a bit hung over, but nothing a little 100% O2 won’t fix.

Today’s Air Force pilots will be amazed at the safety culture of the decade… and the low-hanging fruit, like not flying with a head-splitting hangover, or checking current weather, that the 1950s safety culture was trying to pluck.

For everyone else, the pictures of 1950s aviation in the US Air Force Europe (USAFE, pronounced, ironically, “you-safe”) shoud be entertaining.

Still, there’s a lot to be said for a time when a guy could just sign for his F-86D and blast off on a VFR cross-country.

Meet the AH-64D Longboat

No, that wasn’t a typo. A Greek crew took their attack helicopter surfing. (NSFW warning: an obscenity, if you happen to know modern Greek).

The pilots both survived, although their military careers might not. (Russia Today says that the Greek military claimed the aircraft had engine failure. We note that the Apache is a twin-engine helicopter, and even on a hot day has no trouble flying on one engine at sea level.

Below sea level? That’s a problem.

Remember, pilots: you can never beat the World Low Flying Record. You can only tie.

We’d Have Called it the Drone Dropper… or Drone-B-Gon

This anti-drone device is going viral. They’ve clickbaited it well by calling it the Skynet anti-drone rifle, and it can directionally jam the GPS signals a drone needs to navigate, and the wireless video downlink.

skynet-anti-drone-rifle-3The two white and black “barrels” are directional antennae in two separate GHz ranges. The backpack is the necessary power source. Anyone who’s got Electronic Warfare experience will tell you jamming is a power-intensive activity.

skynet-anti-drone-rifle-1If you look at all the pictures available on the company’s website, and watch the video (below), the whole thing appears to be built on a (partial? modified?) AR-15 receiver, with a standard M4 receiver extension and stock. A bit overkill for just something to hang an arduino, a transmitter, and some highly directional (< 10º) antennae on, but it kind of makes sense to give people a familiar interface, and the AR-15 is the point and click interface for the 21st Century.

Along with this video, there’s a new one showing a live test. They claim a “suppression ratio” (difference between the range from the Skynet operator to the drone and the drone controller to the drone) of 8:1, which means (thinking of power squares here) that this jammer has vastly more power than the controller.

The two signal rangess it can jam are 1.450 GHz – 1.650 GHz and 2.380 GHz – 2.483 GHz, but it can only jam one at a time. Available hacks for, for example, the DJI Phantom drone (the one in the video) can take the drone control out of the target range, and could practically be developed for the video range.

There are a few other problems with it, to wit:

  1. As a jammer, it is almost certainly illegal to use in the USA. The Federal Communications Commission takes a dim view of jamming, and has considerable technical and legal resources it deploys to punish violators.
  2. It’s only effective against some common commercial drones and is unlikely to have any impact on a more sophisticated government or military system, which is likely to use robust, high-availability communications, and have backup onboard navigation (usually inertial) that’s immune to jamming or meaconing.
  3. It requires clear line-of-sight to the drone, ergo, it’s only useful as a point-defense weapon.
  4. It requires a human operator and visibility of the target. (How would it work in the dark, against a drone deploying LLLTV? We suppose there’s a Picatinny rail upon which you can mount an image intensifier or thermal sight).
  5. It has the scent of early prototype all over it, and is a long way from a commercial product or (alternatively) a flexible R&D platform. But even experimenting with this thing brings you back around into the sights of the FCC.

Finally, this is, we think, the firm’s first video, from May.

All in all, it smells to us like a gimmick. And within the range of this thing, there are other ways to take out a drone (one lady pestered by paparazzi drones seeking spy shots of a celebrity neighbor demonstrated her wingshooting skills and blew the drone to Kingdom Come. The paparazzi boarded their Range Rover — apparently invading privacy pays well — and were last seen heading back for Gawker HQ or whatever glutinous sump whence they emerged).

This is not the only anti-drone product out there. As well as other jammers, there are counter-drone drones that ram them or drop nets or cables onto their rotors. All of them are similarly immature at present, and no one knows if they represent a real market segment or just hobbyists tinkering.

French Ops against ISIL

FR Operation Chammal graphicOur often-forgotten (but appreciated here) allies, France, have been flying alongside American and Allied airmen in several international air operations, including Baltic Air Policing securing the threatened Baltic States of NATO, against Islamic terrorists in the central African band from Mauritania through Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad (the French commitment of air, ground and special-ops forces is called Opération Barkhane), and against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, yclept en français Opération Chammal.

The French joint General Staff has been tweeting out some facts about Chammal this week. And on September 1, they posted an update on all pending operations on Facebook. Naturally, they write in their own language, we’ll restate their social media points in English pour votre convenience. 

Chammal Statistics:

  • Operation Start: 19 Sep 2014.
  • Flights in Iraq & Syria: 4,540
  • Strikes on Da’esh (ISIS/ISIL): 829
  • Targets destroyed: 1,415

Mirage 2000 Participation in Chammal

  • Deployment Start: 12 Dec 14
  • Deployment Conclusion: 28 Aug 16
  • Sorties: 2,349
  • Flight hours: 10,810

FR Operation Chammal Rotation

Previously operating with a mixed Mirage 2k/Rafale combat equipment set, Chammal continues with 12 Rafales (like this one) on the scene:

FR Operation Chammal Rafale

The “all Rafale” force will be fully operational on 10 September.

Aside: thanks to Avions Marcel Dassault, France seems to have had the most consistently beautiful jets of any nation, although the beauty of the Rafale’s compound curves is somewhat hidden in the above all-business image.

We’ll pull a few lines from the French operational briefing. If there’s enough demand we’ll anglicize the whole thing later:

In the Levant, the security situation remains delicate. The crisis is evolving in a complex operational environment, but the advances of coalition forces on the ground are real. The objective of the coalition is to neutralize the military capacities of Daesh, and to frame the minimal conditions for security.

No doubt, that’s the coalition’s real security objective, and that mealy-mouthed mission, as converted to actual tasking, is the root of the coalition’s failure.

On the ground: In Iraq, Iraqi security forces have continued their reconquest operations launched in the spring, and have recaptured certain villages.

French forces assisted in the region of the al-Walid frontier post in the Anbar Valley, and in operations aimed ultimately at retaking the lost city of Mosul. Iraqi security forces with such Coalition assistance broke through north of Baiji on 15 July and retook the town of Qayyara. They’re now trying to completely secure the town and clear it of mines and IEDs left behind by ISIL. In Syria, Coalition (and French) forces contributed to the retaking of Manbij.

All this noted, French General de Villiers noted at a recent panel on the prospect of raising French defense spending to 2% of GDP (the on-paper NATO standard nobody meets):

There can’t be a gap between the goals, the threats, the missions and the means.

A fine sentiment, but he doesn’t appropriate the money; he has to do what he can with what the civilian government gives him. The French forces at home and overseas are small and stretched thin. But they’re not shrinking from the fight.

It was a Perfect Day in Hawaii’s Eternal Summer

Mishap from the air. We believe that the mishap aircraft is down, and the aircraft visible is waving off.

Mishap from the air. We believe that the mishap aircraft is down, and the aircraft visible is waving off.

A perfect day, until the crash. Aviation Week has an evocative article about the crash of a Marine MV-22 Osprey in Hawaii on 17 May 2015. (A registration may be required, but no pay).

Despite the destruction of the airframe, only two of the Marine passengers on this combat-training mission, and none of the crew, were lost. But AW got hold of either a released Article 15-6 investigation report, or one hell of a leak from the actual accident board report (which is a closely held document, not releasable to the public).

It took about an hour for the Osprey to reach the Oahu coast from the Essex, arriving at about 11:30 a.m. Hawaii time. Outside, an 11-kt. wind topped off a 75F morning under slightly overcast skies as the pilots dealt with a slight glare. From the cockpit all was clear within 20 mi. of the beach. The pilots started their descent to 6,500 ft. and then to 1,500 ft. About three miles out, the pilots reduced power. The Osprey then began the riskiest stage of its flight—conversion to helicopter mode and preparation for landing, raising the nacelles and lowering the landing gear when it reached about 110 kt. a half mile before the beachline.

The Osprey crossed the beach at 80 kt. about 620 ft. above the sand, part of a formation of five MV-22s taking part in the exercise. In the cabin, some Marines would note the change in view from the vast blue Pacific to green fields and fences—a lot of fences. This would be a tight landing area.

The MV-22 began a right turn toward LZ Gull. That’s when the confusion started—the tiltrotor was following a flight path about 50 yards southeast of the intended landing point. One of the other formation Ospreys, Mayhem 12, radioed a warning: Mayhem 11 was in the wrong zone, it was too far to the right and off the range complex.

Fifty yards made all the difference, as did the failure to recon the DZ properly, and these errors would be compounded momentarily.

Inside the cabin, as they heard the change in the engine pitch announcing the switch from flight to imminent landing, the Marines strapped on their gear and unstrapped themselves from their safety harnesses. This had become common practice to allow them to exit the aircraft as quickly as possible. It was also a flagrant safety violation. They smacked themselves and each other on their plated chests. Officers held up two fingers—two minutes to landing and assault. Some again checked their magazines.

Using the nearby fence line as a reference point, the pilots started to creep their Osprey toward the LZ, with the large tree to their left. It did not look good, and they radioed the rest of the crews: “We’re going to wave this off …” The noise abatement area to the north severely constricted their ability to maneuver.

But a ragged flight formation was the least of their problems. As the aircraft descended to 25 ft., Mayhem 11 encountered brownout conditions that engulfed the Osprey—rotor downwash was kicking up a thick fog of sand and dust, obliterating points of visual reference.

“‘Brown out’ landings are one of the most difficult operations a helicopter or tiltrotor aircraft can conduct and require detailed planning for success,” investigators would later note. Those aboard Mayhem 11 were ill-prepared to perform one.

They waved off the first landing attempt, then came right back to the same place to try again.

Their next approach profile was exactly the same, producing another severe brownout. The aircraft became engulfed in dust about 25 ft. off the ground as the pilots struggled to get their bearings. It proved impossible to maintain a stable hover due to the unavailability of a clear, unobstructed view of the landing zone. The aircraft moved vertically and laterally off its mark, and the pilots realized they were climbing without meaning to. To reset and attempt another landing, the Osprey climbed to about 110 ft. to get out of the dust cloud as the pilots shifted controls, cued up a new hover page and hit the trim release button, so the aircraft wouldn’t drift from its spot in the sky.

Typical V22 dust devil on arid LZ. (Not a photo from this mishap).

Typical V22 dust devil on arid LZ. (Not a photo from this mishap).

The downwash of a V-22 has to be experienced to be believed. It is much stronger than the downwash of any other hovering rotorcraft — worse than the H-47, the H-53, the long-retired CH-54, and even the mighty Russian Mi-26. It’s very unpleasant to be under, and frightening to fast-rope from.

In addition, brownout not only ruins pilot (and crew chief) visibility, it also sluices a dry river of particulates into the engine intakes. The USMC and other Osprey operators were about to learn an expensive lesson about the plane’s ability to filter these particles.

Mayhem 11 had surpassed its limits for brownout exposure. Neither landing pass by itself had exceeded the 60-sec. brownout limit, and procedures said nothing about a combined limit within any certain period of time. The pilots were operating within accepted procedures. After this day, though, those procedures would be changed.

In the traditional story of Faust, the Devil requires the knowledge-seeking doctor to sign in blood. Flight manuals and operating limitations, also, are sometimes written in blood.

As the pilots tried to set the aircraft down for a third time, those watching the attempt from a nearby hill lost sight of the Osprey in the dust, but they heard a loud pop and saw three red flashes from the bottom exhaust of the port side engine nacelle, followed by black smoke. The pop also was heard within the V-22 itself, penetrating the hearing protection worn by the Marines. The left-hand engine had begun to clog with sand and dirt filled with reactive minerals—calcium, magnesium, aluminum and silicon—that had melted in the combustor and resolidified on the fixed first-state turbine vane. The engine surged, dipping the Osprey immediately left and rolling some of the passengers inside.

Mishap aircraft burns out. The Marines pulled all out, survivors and dead alike, and none were claimed by the fire. But it was close.

Mishap aircraft burns out. The Marines pulled all out, survivors and dead alike, and none were claimed by the fire. But it was close.

The aircraft was, perhaps, at 10 or 15 feet above the fence when the engine began to fail and the crew tried to power their way out of the imminent crash.

Inside the cockpit, time seemed to slow as the adrenaline flowed. The pilots felt the aircraft settling in its own downwash and they knew something was wrong. The Osprey started to fall. The crew chief yelled, “Power!” And then it seemed like the entire aircrew was yelling at once in unison: “Power! Power! Power!”

Both pilots slammed full forward the thrust control lever, which moves fore and aft like an airplane throttle, in an attempt to gain power and altitude. But there was nothing stopping the Osprey now—it plunged to the ground at a speed of about 36 ft. per second.

For comparison’s sake, the old MC1-1B/C parachute descended at about 18-22 feet per second with a normal load (150-300 lb.).

The crash destroyed the aircraft, killed two Marines, and injured 18 more. The casualty list would have been much worse if the Marines hadn’t self- and buddy-rescued before the noxious fumes from burning Osprey pieces could finish them.

Osprey mishaps get a lot of ink, but the aircraft is surprisingly safe, and surprisingly robust. The ship’s accident and fatal-accident rate is lower than some other combat types. One very expensive accident resulted when an Osprey tumbled off a flight deck and hit the water, getting partly submerged. The pilots never stopped fighting and they saved the aircraft, although one crewman bailed out after impact — and was not recovered by USS Boat. (Salt water corrosion meant that this would have been a Class A mishap even without the fatality, but that Osprey was repaired and flies on). The Marines are operating a couple hundred of the unique birds.

A similar “hard landing” in a Chinook or 53 would likely have caused more serious injuries and more fatalities. Unlike those aircraft, the airframe does burn (and release toxic fumes as it goes) which puts a premium on self-help after the parts are done bouncing.

Do Read The Whole Thing™. The comment section is a mixed bag of informed and uninformed personnel, if you read the comments it should be clear who is who.