In the event of a disaster, generally the only military hardware that takes part in recovery efforts belongs to the National Guard, and comes in the form of Humvees and other trucks, as well as helicopters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, though, is arguing that limiting that capability to the military shortchanges civilians who could benefit from the help.
"Bottom line is, the military has a lot of assets that other parts of the government can only dream of," John Warren, a safety officer for FEMA's California Task Force 3, told Military.com. That's why the government relief organization is working with the US Marine Corps to test how the MV-22 Osprey would function in a disaster situation. Based just on the spec sheet, the tilt-rotor Osprey certainly looks like it'd be useful in disaster recovery operations. It combines fixed-wing flight and helicopter-like landings with the ability to haul up to 20,000 pounds of cargo at speeds of up to 350 miles an hour, easily outpacing and outhauling a National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk, which is limited to just 9,000 pounds and has a top speed of around 220.
It's that speed and capability that could most benefit FEMA, with Warren saying a team of four aircraft "could move a whole team [into a disaster area] when roads and bridges and normal means of transportation aren't available."
As for the tests themselves, according to Military.com, FEMA and Marine Corps teams struggled with the Osprey's steep ramp. According to the Marines, though, the issue wasn't so much the weight as coming to terms with planning to use the Osprey for disaster relief.
"It is a very capable aircraft," USMC Capt. Elizabeth Trombitas, one of the commanders of the test Ospreys, said. "But just like other aircraft, you need to put the planning in place to maximize its capability."
That position was echoed higher up the chain of command, too.
The MV-22 "will absolutely be used in a natural disaster," Marine Maj. Stefan Sneden, the defense support of civil authorities officer for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, told Military.com. "So it's especially important to work with people who are going to say when and how they're needed."