By Craig Hoyle at RAF Fairford

A highlight of today’s build up to the weekend’s RIAT show was the morning arrival of two Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors from the US Marine Corps’ (USMC) VMX-22 test squadron. Having flown in to Farnborough earlier in the week, the aircraft are making their first appearance in the UK after conducting the type’s first transatlantic crossing to participate in the shows.

The appearance of the MV-22s is a coup for the RIAT organisers and demonstrates a high level of confidence in the at-times troubled project by the USMC and the industry team responsible for producing the transformational rotorcraft, which combines the take-off and landing qualities of a helicopter with the range and speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft.

 MV-22 flies
© Craig Hoyle /

 MV22 static

The Osprey is on track to achieve initial operating capability with the USMC in 2007, with programme sources hinting that the aircraft will swiftly be committed to frontline duties in Iraq. "This aircraft is very soon going to have an opportunity to prove itself operationally," says Boeing programme manager Phil Dunford.

Bell Boeing has so far delivered 75 V-22s, including 19 last year, with the Osprey fleet having now amassed over 18,700 flight hours. Boeing currently delivers one V-22 fuselage per month from its Philadelphia assembly line, where the aircraft’s cockpit, centre fuselage and empennage are mated. However, Dunford says production could increase to an optimum rate of four per month once full rate activities are achieved. The USMC plans to acquire 360 MV-22s, the US Navy 48 and the US Air Force 50 CV-22s.

Bell Boeing hopes to receive a multi-year deal worth $9 billion next month to produce another 165-185 V-22s over a five-year period, with an expectation for a subsequent five-year contract to add another 163. Current Lot 10 production aircraft have a unit cost of $69 million, but Bell Boeing has targeted a price reduction to $58 million by Lot 14 in around 2010.

Australia, Israel, Japan and the UK are listed as potential Osprey customers, but while these and additional nations have been provided with information on the programme, there are no serious discussions as yet, says Dunford. However, he believes: "When this aircraft proves itself people will come and talk to us."

Source: Flight International