Good News, Bad News: Just Another Day for the V-22
Just when it looks like the V-22 Osprey program might have a good day, the fates conspire to create more clouds on the horizon. A mere 24 hours after getting the good news that the Pentagon was going ahead with an initial purchase of 11 “low-rate production” aircraft (the best news the program has had in months, a taste of what regular series production of a fully approved military tiltrotor transport would be like), the General Accounting Office (GAO), the federal government’s financial oversight watchdog, criticized the move, claiming it to be premature. The overhauled V-22 Osprey program “plans to enter full-rate production without ensuring that the manufacturing processes are mature,” said the GAO. The 11-ship order, worth $817 million (about $74 million each), is the minimum rate at which V-22s can be produced per year without becoming what Congress believes is prohibitively expensive. The V-22 is being prepared to enter an intense period of developmental testing before operational tests under simulated battle conditions to determine if the aircraft is suitable and effective. The tests will start late next year and run through 2005. The U.S. Air Force’s pair of CV-22 search-and-rescue prototypes have successfully undergone nap-of-the-earth evaluation at a test range near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Test flights of the tiltrotors were satisfactorily flown in helicopter, nacelle-forward and full airplane modes.