THE DREAM MACHINE: The Untold History of the Notorious V–22 Osprey.
In his acknowledgements, Richard Whittle states that his goal was “neither to praise nor to bury the Osprey but, simply to tell its story, good and bad, and let the facts speak for themselves.” In the final analysis, that is exactly what he has done. With no limit on the resources available to him, he has provided us with a narrative history that is both thorough and seemingly quite accurate.
He begins with a brief history of the tiltrotor concept and its earliest proponents, many of whom had a direct influence on its later manifestations, to include the prototype XV–15 and ultimately the Osprey. As he introduces the characters who were directly involved in all things Osprey, both proponents and opponents, he is able to weave a compelling story of how our military-industrial-congressional complex works. Because the majority of his resources were from personal interviews with many of those principals, his narrative takes on an insider’s perspective that would be impossible without the cooperation of those involved in this historic enterprise.
That the Osprey was able to survive as a program is one of those true stories that one simply could not make up. From the earliest meetings of the four Services to determine the capabilities that such a revolutionary platform should possess, to the daunting engineering obstacles that had to be overcome and the political and personal infighting that ultimately determined the ebb and flow of the program, Whittle has managed to create a report that compels the reader to find out what in the world could possibly happen next.
Many of us are aware of the tip-of-the-iceberg facts that propelled the program on its roller coaster course, but Whittle brings us to the back rooms and briefing spaces where the debate and infighting actually took place. He sheds light on the myriad little known facts that constitute the Osprey’s story and does not shy away from the controversies. He presents both sides of nearly every debate and conflict, predominantly leaving the conclusion to the reader.
The major credit for the Osprey’s repeated leases on life can be traced to many familiar names in our current and recent Marine Corps. From majors and lieutenant colonels who believed in the dream to general officers who recognized its potential, there is no shortage of Marines who literally staked their careers and reputations on the success of the program. Just as important are the members of Congress and industry who shared the vision and continually resurrected what appeared to be a dead program by providing support and, most importantly, money to keep the dream alive.
The Osprey story takes the reader through some of the high and low points of recent Marine Corps history. The high points include the sacrifices made by Marines throughout the program. The low points are graphically presented and include the ill-advised falsifying of maintenance availability rates at the first training squadron and the subsequent sullying of the Marine Corps’ reputation in the media. Whittle also provides detailed reviews of the mishaps that were nearly the undoing of the entire program. And he does so without delving into the maudlin or sanitizing the narrative so that it loses the personal aspect of how these tragedies affected families, Marines, and those who were intimately involved with the program. He has appropriately dedicated the book “to the civilians and Marines who lost their lives developing the V–22 Osprey, and to their loved ones and friends.”
As to whether the Osprey has been and is a success story, I leave that to you to decide. As to whether I think this book is an important part of the Osprey’s development and history, I do. I strongly recommend that you read The Dream Machine and then draw your own conclusions.