Hopefully, you’ve all seen videos of
era UH-1 Huey aviation assault landings. The helos come in fast in a turning,
gut-wrenching drop, tightly packed, land hard, disgorge their troops in
seconds, and haul out. The entire
assault landing is over and done in seconds.
The landing zones (LZ) were generally fairly small – just a clearing
wide enough for several helos to land at the same time. Vietnam
Now, let’s consider the MV-22 and LZ’s. I’m led to understand that the MV-22 requires 250 ft separation when it lands – so much for a tightly packed group of assault craft! Assuming several MV-22s (or more!) make up the assault package, where are we going to find an LZ that’s big enough to support several MV-22s all spaced 250 ft apart? That’s going to require an LZ covering several city blocks! That immediately rules out the type of small clearings that constituted LZs in
On a related note, a USMC Basic Officer Course assault document specifies the LZ diameter for a single MV-22 to be 175 ft if bordering obstacles (trees, buildings, etc.) are 5-40 ft tall and an LZ diameter of 250 ft for a single MV-22 if bordering obstacles are 40-80 ft tall. In comparison, the LZ diameter for a UH-1 helo is 100 ft for an LZ with bordering obstacles 5-40 ft tall (1).
The implications of the preceding are:
- LZ choices will be limited and much more predictable by the enemy
- Large, wide open LZs will place the troops in open fields without any cover and require them to move across large spaces, potentially under fire the entire time, in order to reach cover around the periphery of the LZ
The alternative to large, wide open LZs is to land aircraft sequentially, one at a time. Given the very slow landing performance of the MV-22, that will result in an assault landing going on and on, one aircraft at a time with each aircraft, in turn, becoming the focus of enemy fire. Survival rate ought to be around zero in a contested landing.
These considerations may force the MV-22 to land only in uncontested, unopposed areas. If so, this further degrades the assault effectiveness of the MV-22 by ruling out most useful LZs and pushing the landings so far away from the ultimate target as to eliminate the element of surprise and speed. In short, I don’t see the MV-22 as being a viable option for contested assaults.
I am also unaware that the Marines have ever conducted a full scale MV-22 combat assault exercise. They may have done so but I doubt it or we would have heard about it in glowing terms, no matter how badly it went, and we’ve heard nothing. Shouldn’t we conduct such an exercise and find out now what the MV-22 can do rather than find out the bloody way, in actual combat?
Let’s take that
class amphibious ship that has no well deck and
conduct a full scale aviation assault and see what happens. America
Before we conclude, let me be clear – there is very little public domain information on MV-22 combat landing performance so much of what I’ve discussed is speculative. However, it is all reasonable speculation backed by data. For example, I have seen no public information on MV-22 LZ landing speed (the time from entering the LZ’s small arms fire range until the aircraft has landed and troops can begin debarking) but there are plenty of videos of MV-22 landings and they are painfully slow. I’m sure they would be faster in combat but the point remains that they won’t be anywhere near as fast as the helos they’re replacing.
(1)“Assault Support Capabilities / Operations”, USMC The Basic School, Marine Corps Training Command, Camp Barrett, VA, Basic Officer Course, B2C0355XQ