General Michael Hagee, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, opened the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey press briefing at Farnborough this week with full praise for the big tilt-rotor, two of which are here in Farnborough–one on static display and one making demonstration flights.
“The MV-22 is not evolutionary,” he said. “It’s revolutionary. I wish we had it now. It is faster, more agile and safer and the capability it brings is awesome.”
Hagee’s enthusiasm notwithstanding, questions about cost and capability followed his and the other panel members’ brief comments at the Monday meeting. Also speaking were Boeing Rotorcraft Division senior v-p Mike Tkach and Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, deputy commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps for Aviation.
People with only a passing knowledge of the V-22 know four things: it’s a hybrid of a helicopter and turboprop airplane; it’s development has stretched over three often turbulent decades; its costs keep rising, despite efforts to control them; and the U.S. Marines really, really want the capability it provides over the service’s current CH-46 helicopters, notwithstanding some tradeoffs the Marines have had to accept.
“We’re now turning our focus to getting the cost of the aircraft into a more affordable range for other customers,” said Tkach.
The implication is that with the V-22 in production, the unit cost for the U.S. military customers is coming down as more are produced. But for the Marine Corps, the V-22’s current performance makes it an absolutely must-have aircraft. To illustrate this point, Castellaw, used the following comparison at the briefing on Monday. “Today, to move 180 troops 80 miles, I need 12 CH-46 helicopters and the flight would take two hours. To move those same troops that same distance, I would need eight V-22s and the flight would take 17 minutes.”