The U.S. Marine Corps officially accepted,
for service, the V-22 Osprey tilt rotor
aircraft on June 1st. The first unit of ten V-22s will arrive in Iraq this
September. That's if there are no more problems. The V22 is a complex piece of
work, and this has resulted in a lot of development delays. At the moment, the U.S. Department of Defense
has approved the purchase of 171 V-22 aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps, and
31 for U.S. Air Force units operating with SOCOM (Special Operations Command).
The plan involves buying up to 35 V-22s a year, from 2008 to 2013.
The marine V-22s can carry
24 troops 360 kilometers (vertical take-off on a ship, level flight, landing,
and return) at 700 kilometers an hour. The V-22 is replacing the CH-46E
helicopter, which can carry 12 troops 135 kilometers at a speed of 350
kilometers an hour. The V-22 can carry a 10,000-pound external sling load 135
kilometers, while the CH-46E can carry 3,000 pounds only 90 kilometers.
The U.S. Air Force
component of SOCOM will use the V-22 to replace the current MH-53J special operations
helicopters. Unlike the U.S. Marine Corps version, the SOCOM MV-22 will have
lots more expensive electronics on board. This will help the MV-22 when
traveling into hostile territory. The MV-22 also carries a terrain avoidance
radar, an additional 900 gallons of fuel and more gadgets in general. The 25
ton MV-22 is a major improvement on the MH-53J, with three times the range, and
a higher cruising speed (at 410 kilometers an hour, twice that of the
helicopter). The MV-22 can travel about nearly a thousand kilometers, in any
weather, and land or pick up 18 fully equipped commandoes. The SOCOM MV-22
won't ready for combat for another two years.
On the downside, the V-22
is several years behind schedule. It's a very complex aircraft, and has
encountered more development problems than expected. It's the first application
of the tilt-rotor technology to do active service. The air force is already working
on improvements (to make the V22 more reliable and easier to maintain), that
won't be installed for another five years. The V-22 will give the marines and
SOCOM a lot more capability, but, as it often the case, it will be a lot more
expensive. The initial production models of the MV-22 will cost close to $100
million each. SOCOM insists on a high degree of reliability for its aircraft.
Commando operations cannot tolerate too many mistakes without getting fatally