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The U.S. Army awarded the $185 million performance-based logistics contract to Boeing. The PBL contract is for supporting the U.S. Army’s fleet of CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
Boeing have previously worked with the Army’s Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command on improving the tooling used to produce and repair Chinook rotor blades. The production, overhaul, and distribution are covered on the PBL program.
According to Peri Widener, “PBLs are outcome-focused sustainment contracts that guarantee enhanced performance and improved costs. We work with our customer to reduce costs through longer-term agreements, purchasing only the parts needed and investing in techniques that extend the life of key components.” Peri Widener is the Rotorcraft Support vice-president for Boeing.
The PBL agreement will reduce the customer costs while allowing Boeing to improve the products and process of manufacturing helicopter parts.
The Chinook PBL contract with Boeing will run for five years. Boeing has existing similar contracts with the military for other aircraft such as V-22 Osprey and AH-64 Apache helicopter.
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Canada’s Defense Minister Peter MacKay says buying surplus American aircraft will boost the availability of Canada’s beleaguered Cormorant helicopters.
His comments came Wednesday as more questions were raised about how often the Canada’s 14 front-line search-and-rescue helicopters are in the shop.
Defense planners are also paying more attention to a controversial U.S. tilt-wing aircraft, seen as a possible magic-bullet replacement.
Canada’s National Defense spent $164 million this summer buying leftovers from Washington’s cancelled VH-71 presidential helicopter program, an updated version of CH-149 Cormorants.
A briefing note to MacKay warned last year that the Cormorant’s availability is “barely adequate” to meet search-and-rescue requirements, requiring aging Sea King helicopters to be put on standby along the East Coast to replace them.
“Since its introduction in 2001, the Cormorant fleet has been plagued by parts availability and technical support problems, significantly reducing its mission readiness for both training and operations,” said the Sept. 1, 2010, briefing, obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information.
The report warned of “extended periods” when the search helicopter, purchased by the Liberals, would be unavailable along the East Coast.
One possible solution under serious consideration is the purchase of Bell-Boeing’s V-22 Osprey, which could fill the gap in not only helicopter operations, but with the country’s aging fixed-wing search planes that the government has been trying to replace for a decade.
The Osprey, which had a series of spectacular crashes in the developmental stage, is expensive at almost US$67 million per aircraft. It is currently flown by U.S. marines.
The Conservative government sent the company a letter of interest in late 2009, according to defence sources.
In the meantime, the air force has plugged along, trying to keep the Cormorants flying. Its availability rate has often dipped below 40 per cent, according to the documents.
The Defense Department did not answer questions about the Cormorant’s service record and is now refusing to conduct any interviews about the aircraft, especially where it relates to its primary search-and-rescue role.
A second Defense Department briefing, also obtained by The Canadian Press, says using spares from cannibalized U.S. helicopters will allow Cormorant maintainers to stop robbing their own aircraft of parts to keep the fleet in the air.
New Democrat defence critic Jack Harris says the U.S. choppers, which include nine airframes and spare parts, should be upgraded to flying condition and added to Canada’s rescue fleet.
“They could easily reconfigure these helicopters for search and rescue,” he said Wednesday.
But the internal analysis of the purchase suggested it would be a lot of work to bring the mothballed aircraft up to standard.
“The nine assembled spares (airframes) have no valid airworthiness certificates and do not meet the minimum equipment configuration required to employed as a SAR helicopter without modifications,” said the Oct. 29, 2010, briefing.
A former squadron commander said purchasing Ospreys means the air force could do with one aircraft as opposed to two.
“In search and rescue, you’re always left the requirement to land as close as possible to the crash site even after you’ve pushed a couple of Sartechs (search and rescue technicians) out the back of the Hercules (transport plane),” said Dean Black, a retired lieutenant-colonel.
“There’s still the requirement to get down there. That requires some sort of vertical take off and landing capability.”
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It’s been be 11 years since a V-22 Osprey plunged to the earth in Marana, Ariz., killing its two pilots and the 17 other Marines aboard, and a Jacksonville military widow believes she may finally be close to setting the history books straight regarding the tragedy.
The doomed flight of April 8, 2000, began as a night training exercise near Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, with two V-22s conducting non-combat maneuvers. Though the aircraft was still in early stages of use by the military and by the crews aboard, the flight went smoothly, up until the point that the following Osprey, codenamed Nighthawk 72, attempted to land at the nearby Marana Airport. With the lead Osprey descending quickly from much higher than planned, the following aircraft found itself in rotor stall, its pilots apparently unable to control its final descent. Veering right, the Osprey crashed into the ground in a fiery explosion.
Though the event was an unthinkable tragedy for the loved ones of all aboard, another moment of horror was in store for the widows of the V-22‘s pilots, Maj. Brooks Gruber and Lt. Col. John Brow, when results of an investigation into the incident were made public several months later. While the Judge Advocate General Manual Report was more nuanced, a press release from the Marine Corps summarizing the findings announced that a combination of human and other factors had caused the crash, with the chain of events leading to the Osprey’s fate involving deviations from the scheduled flight plan and the rapid rate of descent.
In the release, then-Marine commandant Gen. James L. Jones issued a statement backing the findings.
“The tragedy is that these were all good Marines joined in a challenging mission,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the pilots’ drive to accomplish that mission appears to have been the fatal factor.”
Immediately, media reports broadcast to the world that pilot error had caused the fatal crash, a conclusion that widows Connie Gruber and Trish Brow instantly and vehemently contested.
“It was a rude awakening for me, and I knew right then and there that whatever information released to the media to imply this accusation was false; and I intended from that day forward to do whatever necessary to protect my husband’s professional reputation and guarantee him the honor he and his comrades so deserved,” Gruber told The Daily News.
She appeared on 60 Minutes soon after the crash, saying that Maj. Gruber had been pulled into the role of test pilot, operating an aircraft about which much still was unknown. She has since reaffirmed her belief in a variety of media interviews that her husband was not to blame. In 2009, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), who promised to assist Gruber after meeting her at a memorial service soon after the crash, introduced a House resolution absolving the pilots of guilt for the record and blaming the crash instead on Vortex Ring State, a stalled condition to which the Osprey was particularly prone and for which the pilots were not adequately trained.
While the resolution died in committee, new voices have surfaced in recent months to give credence to these claims. Between June and July, Jones received letters from each of the three Marine investigators who had been responsible for establishing findings from the Marana crash. For the cause, the reports were heartening.
Then-Lt. Col. Michael Morgan, the lead investigator, wrote to Jones that no ambiguity should remain in records of the incident.
“In my opinion … John Brown and Brooks Gruber performed as model wingmen on this mission. They were doing exactly what is expected of wingmen on a tactical flight,” he wrote.
In summary, Morgan said he looked forward to the day when Defense officials accurately recognized the pilots’ sacrifice.
Then-Lt. Col. Ronald Radich wrote to say the crash had served to highlight the hazards of VRS, then a little-known phenomenon, even in the aviation community.
But for the sacrifice of the 19 Marines, he wrote, “the highly adverse effects of V-22 VRS would have continued to remain dominant … For the price the crew and passengers paid to discover this, it would be morally wrong to place the blame on the pilots of Nighthawk 72.”
Phillip Stackhouse, then a captain, wrote to say that blame was never intended to be set at the feet of the aircraft’s pilots.
“For any record that reflects the mishap was a result of pilot error, it should be corrected,” he said. “For any publication that reflects the mishap was a result of pilot error, it should be corrected and recanted.”
Stackhouse, now a military defense attorney in Jacksonville, told The Daily News the point had been clear from the conclusion of the investigation.
“From my perspective, it was never my intent with the command investigation to place blame on the pilots with the mishap,” he said.
Though Navy Secretary Ray Mabus issued a clarification for Maj. Gruber’s file stating that “no single action by any single pilot would necessarily have caused the mishap; it was not necessarily pilot error,” Jones said the wording does not satisfy.
“The family would like one of two things: an amendment or addendum to the JAGMAN report or a public declaration from the commandant of the Marine Corps or secretary of the Navy stating that the two pilots were not at fault,” he said.
Jones is now working to gain support for a new legislative effort to establish the pilots’ innocence.
For Gruber, the new support may mean some light at the end of a decade-long tunnel for her, her 11-year-old daughter Brooke and the Brow family, as well as a chance to see the pilots’ legacy rightly honored.
“I’m very optimistic,” she said. “After all this time, it is time that it be corrected. We’re not going to give up at this point.
“We’ve been involved too long now to just let it go.”
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For the dozen lawmakers tasked with producing a deficit-cutting plan, the threatened “doomsday” defense cuts hit close to home.
The six Republicans and six Democrats represent states where the biggest military contractors — Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics Corp., Raytheon Co. and Boeing Co. — build missiles, aircraft, jet fighters and tanks while employing tens of thousands of workers.
The potential for $500 billion more in defense cuts could force the Pentagon to cancel or scale back multibillion-dollar weapons programs. That could translate into significant layoffs in a fragile economy, generate millions less in tax revenues for local governments and upend lucrative company contracts with foreign nations.
The cuts could hammer Everett, Washington, where some of the 30,000 Boeing employees are working on giant airborne refueling tankers for the Air Force, or Amarillo, Texas, where 1,100 Bell Helicopter Textron workers assemble the fuselage, wings, engines and transmissions for the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
Billions in defense cuts would be a blow to the hundreds working on upgrades to the Abrams tank for General Dynamics in Lima, Ohio, or the employees of BAE Systems in Pennsylvania.
For committee members such as Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., the threat of Pentagon cuts is an incentive to come up with $1.5 trillion in savings over a decade. Failure would have brutal implications for hundreds of thousands workers back home and raise the potential of political peril for the committee’s 12.
“I think we all have very good reasons to try to prevent” the automatic cuts, Toomey told reporters last week when pressed about the impact on Pennsylvania’s defense industry. “That is not the optimal outcome here, the much better outcome would be a successful product from this committee.”
The panel has until Thanksgiving to come up with recommendations. If they deadlock or if Congress rejects their proposal, $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board cuts kick in. Up to $500 billion would hit the Pentagon.
Those cuts, starting in 2013, would be in addition to the $350 billion, 10-year reduction already dictated by the debt-limit bill approved by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama this month.
Not surprisingly, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has described the automatic cuts as the “doomsday mechanism.” He’s warned that the prospect of nearly $1 trillion in reductions over a decade would seriously undermine the military’s ability to protect the United States.
For the Pentagon, “we’re talking about cuts of such magnitude that everything is reduced to some degree,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a think tank. “At that rate, you’re eliminating the next generation of weapons.”
Committee members will face competing pressures as they try to produce a deficit-reducing plan.
As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a possible successor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton if Obama wins a second term, Sen. John Kerry is certain to be protective of the budget for the State Department.
Yet the Massachusetts Democrat, who recently said he would seek a sixth term in 2014, represents a state that was fifth in the nation with $8.37 billion in defense contracts this year, behind Virginia, California, Texas and Connecticut, according to data on the federal government’s website USAspending.gov.
In Tewksbury and Andover, Mass., deep defense cuts could have serious ramifications for thousands of Raytheon employees working on the Patriot, the air and missile defense system. It was heralded for its effectiveness during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and is now sold to close to a dozen nations, including South Korea, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates.
Whatever decisions Kerry and the committee make will affect Massachusetts-based Raytheon, which was fourth in defense contracts this year at $7.3 billion, behind Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics. Raytheon also has operations in Arizona, home to another committee member, Republican Sen. Jon Kyl.
“While some will argue there is peril in serving on this committee, we believe there is far greater peril in leaving these issues unaddressed,” Kerry said in a joint statement with Murray and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., after they were selected by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
In February, Murray celebrated when the Air Force ended a decade-long saga of delays and missteps and awarded one of the biggest defense contracts ever, a $35 billion deal to build nearly 200 air refueling tankers, to Boeing, a mainstay in her home state.
Boeing was fourth on the list of donors to Murray from 2007-2012, with its political action committee, individual employees and family members contributing $102,610.
Michigan is home to two committee members, Republican Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton, and General Dynamics work on the Abrams tank. The state is struggling with a 10.5 percent unemployment rate, which is above the national average.
Already facing the prospect of $350 billion in defense cuts over 10 years, the Pentagon could look to scale back some projects, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy aircraft that has been plagued by cost overruns and delays.
Lockheed Martin, in conjunction with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, is building 2,400 of the next generation fighter jet for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as working with eight foreign countries. But the cost of the program has jumped from $233 billion to $385 billion; some estimates suggest that it could top out at $1 trillion over 50 years.
Questioned about the defense cuts, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen recently said that “programs that can’t meet schedule, that can’t meet cost … requirements are very much in jeopardy and will be very much under scrutiny.”
The Joint Strike Fighter is being built in Fort Worth, Texas, and Palmdale and El Segundo, Calif. Those are the states of committee members Reps. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Xavier Becerra, D-Calif. Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems also have operations in Pennsylvania.
The Pentagon could decide to scrap the program or scale it back while upgrading the existing F-15 and F-18 aircraft, a troubling prospect for lawmakers from the states that benefit from F-35 production.
In the military world, however, reducing the number could make it more costly.
“The problem when you cut back in numbers is you increase the number for one, you increase the cost for one,” said Laicie Olson, a senior policy analyst with Council for a Livable World and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. “Sometimes it’s almost better to buy more.”
Boeing, in a statement, said it has been “anticipating flattening defense budgets for some time.” Company spokesman Daniel C. Beck said that while Boeing is trying to improve production and efficiency, it’s moving into new markets such as cybersecurity and energy management.
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Rep. Norman Dicks told reporters that a V-22 Osprey was used to carry Osama bin Laden’s body to USS Carl Vinson for burial at sea.
A V-22 Osprey aircraft ferried Osama bin Laden’s body to the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson after he was killed in a U.S. raid May 2 in Pakistan.Representative Norman Dicks, a Democrat from Washington, talked about the tilt-rotor aircraft’s mission as the House Appropriations Committee was considering the 2012 Pentagon spending bill.
“I don’t know the details,” Dicks said in an interview after the session. “They had the V-22s” in Afghanistan “so they used that to transport his body to the carrier.”
Bin Laden was subsequently buried at sea.
Dicks said he was told about the role of the V-22, manufactured by Boeing Co. (BA) of Chicago and Textron Inc. (TXT) of Providence, Rhode Island, during an unclassified briefing in Afghanistan.
Dicks said the V-22’s performance in the Bin Laden mission as well as its overall performance overseas factored into the committee’s action.
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Military and industry officials rave about the V-22 tiltrotor’s performance in Afghanistan but know they need to show the aircraft is worth its high price tag.
The Marine Corps are flying V-22 Ospreys in theater and “it’s more effective than we expected,” Maj. Gen. Jon Davis, Second Marine Corps Air Wing commander, told reporters here recently. “We have only scratched the surface with this aircraft. … “We’re doing things with the V-22 we did not plan to do.”
But there are questions in defense circles about whether — after years of technical delays and cost spikes —such glowing reviews will be enough to avoid future cuts as White House, Pentagon and congressional officials look for ways to trim the annual Defense budget.
Despite rave reviews from war fighters, the program is among the most expensive at the Pentagon. Each Osprey has a flyaway cost of $65 million. The Pentagon already has spent over $30 billion on the V-22 program, according to the Congressional Research Service. In its 2012 budget request, the Defense Department is seeking another $3 billion to buy Marine Corps and Air Force special-operations versions of the V-22.
The Pentagon intends to buy around 450. The majority would go to the Marine Corps, with the Air Force slated to buy around 50. Those kinds of cost figures lead many fiscal hawks to place the V-22, being built by Boeing and Bell Helicopter, on their lists of Defense programs that should be ended.
Marine Corps and Bell-Boeing officials also say to avoid budget cuts or a reduced buy, they will have to show critics like Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) that the fleet is reliable.
Woolsey dubbed the program a “boondoggle” for the “military-industrial complex.” Terminating the program would save more than $12 billion over 10 years, and $2.5 billion in 2012 alone, she claimed.
Right now, the Osprey’s closely monitored reliability rate in Afghanistan is around 73 percent, according to program officials. Davis wants to push that figure to 80 percent, saying that would make the V-22 among the military’s most reliable aircraft.
DOD and Bell-Boeing officials are working on plans to make the fleet more reliable.
Source: The Hill
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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.
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A previously undisclosed, classified stealth helicopter apparently was part of the U.S. task force that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 1.
The exact type of helicopter is unknown but it appears to be a highly modified version of an H-60 Blackhawk . Photos disseminated via the European PressPhoto agency and attributed to an anonymous stringer show that the helicopter’s tail features stealth-configured shapes on the boom and the tail rotor hub fairings, swept stabilizers and a “dishpan” cover over a five-or-six-blade tail rotor. It has a silver-loaded infrared suppression finish similar to that seen on V-22s.
The aircraft was damaged during the mission and abandoned. The mission team destroyed most of the airframe but its tail section landed outside the wall of the target compound and escaped demolition.
Stealth helicopter technology is not new and was applied extensively to the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, cancelled in 2004. Compared with fixed-wing stealth, more emphasis is usually placed on noise and infrared signatures.
Noise can be reduced and made less conspicuous by adding blades to the main and tail rotors. It can also be reduced by aerodynamic modifications and flight control changes that make it possible to reduce rotor rpm, particularly in forward flight below maximum speed. Infrared reduction measures are crucial – the Comanche had an elaborate system of exhaust ducts and fresh-air ejectors in its tailboom.
Radar cross-section (RCS) reduction measures include flattened and canted body sides, making landing gear and other features retractable, and adding fairings over the rotor hubs. It usually is not possible to achieve the same – you can’t make a helo as radar-stealthy as a fixed-wing airplane, but helicopters generally operate at low altitude in ground clutter. Reducing RCS also makes jamming more effective, whether from the aircraft itself or from a standoff jammer.
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On Mar. 3, the Boeing Company and Bell Helicopter applauded the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) V-22 Joint Program Office (PMA-275) announcement that the Bell Boeing-built V-22 Osprey fleet has surpassed 100,000 flight hours. The milestone arrived on Feb. 10 during a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey combat mission in Afghanistan. Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264, currently operating out of Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, was identified as the squadron that eclipsed the 100,000-hour mark.
John Rader, executive director of the Bell Boeing V-22 Program, said, “The entire Bell Boeing tiltrotor team congratulates our Marine Corps and Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) customers on achieving 100,000 flight hours, and counting.” Rader also said, “The performance of the aircraft in combat and humanitarian missions has been truly remarkable. We continue to take great pride in providing our customers with this revolutionary capability.”
Marine Corps MV-22 and AFSOC CV-22 Ospreys amassed the flight hours while performing combat, humanitarian, training, and test and evaluation missions on land and at sea. Almost half of the total hours were flown during the past two years. This milestone marks the latest major achievement for a program that has seen 14 successful combat and humanitarian deployments since the Osprey was first declared operational in 2007.
Marine Corps Col. Greg Masiello, head of the V-22 Joint Program Office (PMA-275), said, “The V-22 is proven and forward-deployed, supporting combat operations and responding to contingency operations around the world.” He also said, “The Osprey brings unprecedented range, speed and survivability to the warfighter and will continue to excel in combat and remain ready, effective and survivable.”
According to Naval Safety Center records, the MV-22 has had the lowest Class A mishap rate of any rotorcraft in the Marine Corps during the past decade. The aircraft’s reduced susceptibility, lower vulnerability and advanced crashworthiness have made it the most survivable military rotorcraft ever introduced. Fiscal Year 2010 Navy flight-hour cost data also show that the Osprey has the lowest cost per seat-mile (cost to transport one person over a distance of one mile) of any U.S. Navy transport rotorcraft.
“At 100,000 flight hours, safety, survivability and mission efficiency have become hallmarks of the operational fleet,” said Mitch Snyder, deputy program director for the Bell Boeing V-22 Program.
The V-22 Osprey is a joint service, multirole combat aircraft using tiltrotor technology to combine the vertical performance of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft. With its nacelles and rotors in vertical position, it can take off, land and hover like a helicopter. Once airborne, its nacelles can be rotated to transition the aircraft to a turboprop airplane capable of high-speed, high-altitude flight.
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An MV-22B Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 prepares to launch aboard the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan in February.
The V-22 Joint Program Office announced that the V-22 Osprey surpassed 100,000 flight hours in February while supporting combat operations in Afghanistan
Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264 (VMM-264), currently operating out of Camp Bastion in Helmand Province supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, was the squadron that took the V-22 over the 100,000-hour mark.
“The Osprey is giving combatant commanders unprecedented agility and operational reach,” said Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps.
“The revolutionary capability of the MV-22 will be a cornerstone of our Marine Air Ground Task Force. This aircraft is safe and survivable, and effective and efficient.”
“The V-22 is proven and forward deployed supporting combat operations and responding to contingency operations around the world,” said Marine Corps Col. Greg Masiello, head of the V-22 Joint Program Office at the Naval Air Systems Command.
The revolutionary V-22 Osprey is a joint service, multi-role combat aircraft using tiltrotor technology to combine the vertical performance of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed wing aircraft. With its nacelles and rotors in vertical position, it can take off, land and hover like a helicopter. Once airborne, its nacelles can be rotated to transition the aircraft to a turboprop airplane capable of high-speed, high-altitude flight.
“We are only beginning to use Ospreys, bringing unprecedented range, speed and survivability to the warfighter,” Masiello said. “V-22s will continue to excel in combat, and remain ready, effective and survivable.”
The V-22 Osprey is produced under a strategic alliance between Bell Helicopter and Boeing. The current V-22 Osprey program of record calls for 360 aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps, 50 for the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, and 48 for the Navy.