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PICTURE: US Marine Corps says V-22 Osprey performing well in Iraq

Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors have flown more than 1,400 combat sorties in Iraq since deploying to Al Anbar province in October, including the first aeroscout missions to hunt down insurgents, says the US Marine Corps.

With some 2,000 flying hours logged in Iraq, the aircraft are maintaining an average mission-capable availability rate of 68.1%, The USMC says the MV-22 squadron in Iraq "has not missed a launch due to mechanical issues".  

The mission-capable rate for all USMC aircraft is 76% and the goal for the Osprey is be at 82% by 60,000h, the service says, addding that the entire MV-22 fleet is currently at about 30,000h.

According to the Marines, the 10 MV-22Bs of medium tiltrotor squadron VMM-263 have taken over the full range of assault support missions from the Sikorsky CH-53Ds previously operated in Anbar province by HMH-363.

MV-22 in Iraq - rotor tips glow with static energy      © USMC

These missions include battlefield circulation - moving officers and soldiers around the area of operations - governance missions carrying Iraqi official, pre-planned raids and roving aeroscout operations, as well as personnel recovery and casualty evacuation.

"The area of operations has, in a number of way, highlighted the performance of the aircraft," says Lt Col Paul Rock, VMM-263 commanding officer. "Our area of operations is large and the aircraft's speed and range has been much appreciated."

Rock says the Osprey's systems have enhanced the squadron's ability to perform desert landings in brownout conditions caused by rotor-blown sand, the aircraft's autopilot-coupled hover capability significantly increasing safety.

As expected, maintenance has been the biggest headache. "The aircraft has performed better than expected," says crew chief Cpl Daniel Stratman. "We haven't had to replace any major parts like prop boxes...the main problem out here is getting the parts for this aircraft."

MV-22 of VMM-263 flies over Al Anbar province        © USMC

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