If the US Special Forces and Marines operating in Afghanistan had been able to deploy the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, lives would have been saved. That was the stark message delivered by Gen James Jones, Commandant of the USMC at a packed Farnborough press conference yesterday.

Underlining his belief in the technology in the strongest way possible, Gen Jones pointed to long-distance troop insertion missions in remote and hostile territory as prime conditions for V-22 operations.


"We have an urgent requirement for this aircraft," he said. "It would allow us to minimise refuelling and reduce the required number of support personnel on the ground. We estimate our efficiency in the Afghan scenario would have improved by 65-75% had we employed the V-22." The press conference also took account of the politically-sensitive nature of the programme as Congressman Bill Young, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, took the stage to voice his support for the Osprey.

"Congress is a strong supporter of the V-22," he said. "The fact that in our defence bill $1 billion has been allocated to move the aircraft into full-scale development speaks for itself."

Col Dan Schultz, US Navy Air Systems Command (Navair) V-22 programme manager, set out the priorities for the new phase of V-22 flight testing which began on 29 May.

"We're doing two months of solid pilot refresher training and then we will focus heavily on two areas that have been raised as issues – vortex ring state and pitch up side-slip. We hope to complete that work by October."

The vortex ring phenomenon was implicated in the July 2000 crash of an MV-22 and resulted in revamped flight control software being integrated following lengthy investigation work. Redesign work on the nacelles was also completed as part of a detailed review of the V-22's safety record.


Gen Jones reiterated that the V-22 flight test programme would be event driven, not timeline driven. "We'll bring it into the inventory when it is ready," he said. "I've repeated this many times, but the tiltrotor concept is transformational by anybody's definition of the word. It will enable us to go further, carry more and fly faster than ever before.

"The best way I can describe the V-22 is as the gateway to the future. We remain fully committed to the aircraft because it meets our mission needs and we are thankful for the support of congress."

Source: Flight Daily News