The first of up to 12 Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors are joining Marine Helicopter Squadron (HMX) 1, the unit tasked with transporting the President, other VIPs and their entourages. The Marine Corps was expected to take formal delivery of the first HMX-1 MV-22 last month. The MV-22s are replacing the CH-46E Sea Knights attached to the squadron and are being modified with upgraded communications equipment and seating. They are not expected to be used to transport the President. While they will be painted in HMX-1’s signature dark green, they will not have the white tops associated with the Sikorsky VH-3Ds and VH-60Ns used to fly the President.
The Navy recently relaunched its search for a replacement for those helicopters.
The first MV-22 slated for HMX-1 was undergoing acceptance test flights in late January at the Bell-Boeing V-22 assembly plant in Amarillo, Texas.
HMX-1’s MV-22s will also be used to transport personnel throughout the metropolitan Washington area. On Presidential trips they will carry members of the Secret Service, administrative staff and the press.
The decision to add the MV-22s to HMX-1 was announced last year and is seen as a major public-relations coup for a program that has been under perennial attack from a minority of Congressional critics since its inception in the 1980s. The current production contract runs through 2017. According to the Defense Department, unit costs have increased to $109 million per aircraft. Nearly 200 are in service with the Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force.