USMC readies Ospreys for deployment to Iraq

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The US Marine Corps has carried out 18 days of desert flying prior to deployment of 12 Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor transports to Iraq, expected in September. The desert exercise included 185 flight hours including aerial refuelling and assault exercises, with eight of the 28 missions flown at night.

The service also demonstrated integration of the Osprey with its Boeing F/A-18 strike aircraft. Feedback has been good, says Phil Dunford, Boeing's V-22 programme manager. "The mission-capable rate is climbing all the time."

The Bell Boeing team is now making changes to the V-22's VOR navigation system, and Dunford says the exercise has also revealed "a few issues with the nose landing gear. This has been modified on the field by the marines to improve the reliability of the sequencing."

Bell and Boeing are pushing ahead with efforts to reduce the V-22's unit cost from around $72 million, targeting $58 million or below by the end of the first multi-year contract in three years, says Dave Palm, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems' director of business development for rotorcraft.

The team has delivered 83 aircraft to US forces so far and is looking to international opportunities. "We have marketing licences for four countries - Australia, Israel, Japan and the UK - and we're hoping to get more," says Palm.