The Israeli Air Force is sending a team to the United States this month to evaluate the controversial V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft that it’s eyeing for search-and-rescue and covert special operations.
The successful March rescue of a downed U.S. Air Force F-15 pilot in Libya by an Osprey crew has doubtless enhanced the prospects of the multi-mission aircraft built by Bell Helicopter and Boeing Rotorcraft Systems.
“The (Israeli) Air Force has had its eye on the V-22 Osprey for a number of years and senior officers, including Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz have flown in it and were impressed with its capabilities,” The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.
They had initially looked at the Osprey as a replacement for its aging fleet of Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion transport helicopters. But these days, the Post added, “due to the V-22′s smaller size it is being looked at a complementary platform to assist in search-and-rescue operations and dropping Special Forces behind enemy lines.”
Once the air force team has fully examined the V-22 in the United States, the service’s helicopter directorate will submit a recommendation to the air force commander, Gen. Ido Nehushtan.
The team that will evaluate with V-22 will note that the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, where the Osprey was deployed in November 2009, found that the V-22′s speed and range made it a good operational match for fast combat jets.
There are 112 V-22s operational with U.S. forces. The Marine Corps has ordered 360 of the aircraft, each costing $110 million.