September Deployment Will Mark Tiltrotor's First Combat
After years of testing marred by a number of incidents,
including a pair of fatal accidents, the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor
transport aircraft will head for its first combat deployment in
September, the US Marine Corps said Friday.
CBS Marketwatch reports the officers and equipment of Marine
Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 will deploy to Iraq for seven
The Osprey has had a troubled development record -- including the
February grounding of the fleet due to a software problem. Four
fatal accidents have occurred in the tiltrotor's development,
claiming the lives of 26 military personnel and four civilians. The
military grounded the program for nearly two years following a
December 2000 crash in Arizona.
As Aero-News reported in January
2007, a report by Washington-based think tank, the
Center for Defense Information (CDI), recommended the military
scrap the entire Osprey program, due to what it termed
"operational, aerodynamic and survivability challenges that will
prove insurmountable -- and lethal -- in combat."
Representatives with Bell Helicopter
and Boeing -- which partnered to manufacture the Osprey -- reply
the aircraft, though beset by difficulties early on, has since
proven itself worthy, and safe. In March, the entire Osprey fleet
surpassed 25,000 flight
hours; The Marines announced the probable summer deployment of the
Osprey earlier this month.
The Marines acknowledge issues likely remain for the Osprey, as
situations will arise in the combat environment not seen throughout
the aircraft's 20-year development and earlier test deployments.
But the Corps stands firm in its decision.
"The decision to send this aircraft to combat in Iraq
underscores our confidence in it," the Marines announced Friday.
"The MV-22 can fly almost three times as fast, five times as far,
and much higher than the aircraft it replaces. This gives
commanders many more options, and offers improved survivability to
the Marines it will transport."
The time has now come for the Osprey to prove itself worthy of
those words... as it heads "to the sound of the guns," in the words
of the Marines' top aviation officer, Lt. Gen. John Castellaw.