After more than 20 years of development and testing, the V-22 Osprey helicopter is now being used by the U.S. military in combat zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
First Tiltrotor Helicopter
The V-22 Osprey is the world’s first tiltrotor helicopter developed for use by a military. The term tiltrotor refers to the fact that the helicopter has two rotor blades that can be adjusted and positioned vertically as rotor blades are on a conventional helicopter, or horizontally like on a fixed-wing aircraft. The V-22 Osprey is capable of both vertical takeoff and landings, and takeoff and landings from a short runway used by airplanes.
Development of the V-22 Osprey began in 2003 by Bell Helicopter and Boeing Helicopter. The aircraft began flight tests in 1989, but it did not enter service with the U.S. military until 2007 due to a number of design issues and poor test results. However, the helicopter is now in active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Marines have stated that they plan to use the V-22 Osprey to replace the CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopter.
Transporting Soldiers Quickly
The main advantage of the V-22 Osprey helicopter is its ability to takeoff and land from a variety of locations, and transport combat troops at quick speeds. The U.S. military plans to acquire about 450 V-22 Osprey helicopters – the vast majority of which will enter service with the U.S. Marine Corps. The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy each plan to purchase about 50 V-22 Ospreys. Each helicopter costs about $67 million.
The drawn out development and testing phase of the V-22 Osprey helicopters made the program controversial with politicians in Washington, D.C. The development program for the helicopters was originally estimated to cost $2.5 billion. However, the project budget had swelled to almost $30 billion by 2008 – leading to criticism about the costs and value of the aircraft. However, the helicopter has earned positive reviews from U.S. Marines who have operated it or flown in it. Britain and Israel have expressed interest in the V-22 Osprey helicopter for their own militaries.