Pentagon clears Osprey flight operations to resume

The Pentagon has cleared all three variants of the V-22 Osprey to return to flight after what has been a three-month grounding. US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) initially grounded its CV-22B fleet after the fatal loss of an aircraft on November 29, 2023, before US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) grounded the rest of the US Osprey force, which is operated by the USMC (MV-22B) and US Navy (CMV-22B).

NAVAIR formally lifted the Osprey grounding order on March 8, with the Pentagon Press Secretary, USAF Maj Gen Patrick S Ryder, said that the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J Austin III, “is confident in the steps that have been taken to return it to flight… He recently had the opportunity to receive an update from the service secretaries and chiefs on the steps that are being taken and, again, is confident in their decision.”

A USMC MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor conducts a bilateral formation flight alongside a Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JASDF)-operated MV-22 Osprey during the field training portion of Exercise Resolute Dragon 23 off the coast of Kumamoto, Japan, on October 18, 2023.
A USMC MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor conducts a bilateral formation flight alongside a Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JASDF)-operated MV-22 Osprey during the field training portion of Exercise Resolute Dragon 23 off the coast of Kumamoto, Japan, on October 18, 2023. USMC/Cpl Kyle Chan

While the cause of the fatal accident in November has not been revealed, AFSOC has said that its initial findings suggested a materiel failure, rather than pilot error. AFSOC subsequently confirmed that it has identified which part had failed, but that it has not yet concluded why that failure occurred. It is widely believed that it was probably the input quill assemblies, which are responsible for a known hard-clutch engagement problem that has been blamed for at least one previous fatal Osprey accident.

AFSOC has said that it plans to take a phased approach to returning the CV-22B fleet to operational service. Phase 1 will include ground and simulator training, a review of maintenance records and refining squadron-by-squadron training plans to implement new safety protocols. A multi-month Phase 2 will enable aircrew and maintainers to regain proficiency and mission currency. Finally, there will be a return to full operations, including exercises and deployments under Phase 3.