Paul Derby

The commitment of the US Marine Corps to the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey military tiltrotor was underlined at the Show by USMC Commandant Gen James Jones.

Gen Jones reveals that operational evaluation (Opeval) of the MV-22B is now complete and that the aircraft met or exceeded all of its threshold targets. The official Opeval report is due to be released by the end of the month and will pave the way for a full-rate production decision, which is expected by October.

Gen Jones also repeats the Marines' conviction that the fatal crash of an initial production aircraft at Marana, Arizona in April was not caused by either mechanical or technological failure. A test aircraft at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland is being employed _to investigate the vortex ring/power settling phenomenon which is believed to have caused the accident.

"We are truly excited by this aircraft, which will expand the expeditionary envelope of the Marine Corps and take our capabilities to a new level," he says. "It will allow our troops to deploy from further afield, deeper, more quickly and more safely than ever before. "Our belief in the future of tiltrotor technology is total; it will form the backbone of our airborne missions." Gen Jones also outlines his support for the concept of a Quad Tiltrotor. Bell Helicopter has won initial US government funding to develop the idea.

Meanwhile, Gen Jones discusses the eventual need for a common airframe as a replacement for Bell UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters - a move which would require an aircraft capable of performing both command and control and attack missions. One option would be a military tiltrotor between the size of the V-22 and the civil Bell/Agusta BA609.

Source: Flight Daily News