United States Navy and Marine Corps aviation chiefs have given the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey rave reviews at Paris, after announcing work has begun on the first production version of the revolutionary tiltrotor.

"Its on time, on cost and under weight," said US Navy under secretary for research, development and acquisition, John W Douglass. "It's a very successful programme, and in our Quadrennial Defence Review production is accelerated."

The controversial programme has been dogged by crashes but it was all smiles at Paris, where US Marine Corps Brigadier General Michael Hough called the V-22 a 'winner', The V-22 can take off like a helicopter and then fly at 275 kts and Brigadier General Hough says: "It changes the way we do business."

The Pentagon now plans to produce 30 to 36 aircraft a year and Bell Boeing were on target to cut costs by 20%, resulting in a price of under $30million per aircraft.

These costs could be reduced if higher production rates are agreed.

General Hough says more mission are possible for the aircraft after it enters service in 2001. The first five MV-22B versions are being produced under a low rate initial production contract and will enter USMC service at New River MCAS, North Carolina.

Foreign military sales are now on the horizon with 30 countries showing an interest.

Source: Flight Daily News