CV-22 mission-capable rate still hovering at 54 percent

The CV-22 Osprey ended fiscal 2010 with a mission-capable rate of 54.3 percent. On any given day, from Oct. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, half of the special operations tilt-rotor aircraft couldn’t fly their full range of missions. The Osprey’s fiscal 2009 mission-capable rate was 50.1 percent, the lowest ever.

Only the RQ-4 Global Hawk and two aging aircraft, B-1B Lancer and the C-5A Galaxy, had worse mission-capable numbers, according to the data.

The RQ-4 had a mission-capable rate of 41.64 percent. The B-1B, operational since 1986 and with a notoriously complicated hydraulics system, had a mission-capable rate of 43.82 percent. The C-5A, the massive transport first delivered during the Vietnam War, had a mission-capable rate of 52.6 percent.

No common problem such as a software glitch or engine malfunction led to the Osprey’s low rate, said Col. Peter Robichaux, who oversees the health of Air Force Special Operations Command aircraft. Most sat on the flight line waiting for replacement parts or maintainers to fix them.

For Robichaux, the Osprey’s low rate is a statistical quirk — not an indicator of the hybrid’s long-term viability.
“The numbers are a result of our small fleet size,” said Robichaux, whose AFSOC title is director of logistics. “That can drive the numbers down.”

The Air Force has 16 CV-22s and is scheduled to receive five to six more a year until 50 are on hand, probably by 2016. Taking one plane off the flight schedule for a day pushes down the mission-capable rate for that day by about 6 percentage points.

New aircraft often have low mission-capable rates for three reasons: Parts inventories can be low, technical orders explaining how to make repairs aren’t clear and even the most experienced maintainers have just a few years with the plane.

Many planes also see their mission-capable rates slowly improve as they age. The F-22 Raptor, for example, went from 51.25 percent in 2003 to 60.94 percent in 2010.

The CV-22, though, has a declining mission-capable rate. In 2006, when the first operational aircraft arrived, the rate was 61.4 percent.



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