Air Transportation: MV-22 Gets Better, But Not Cheaper


February 22, 2012: The U.S. Marine Corps received the first "Block C" version of the MV-22 tilt-rotor transport. This version has better weather radar, improved cabin climate control, better anti-missile defenses, and flat screen displays in the cockpit and cabin that show what external cameras see from different positions on the exterior of the aircraft ("improved situational awareness"). All this is important for an aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter, then speeds away like a fixed wing aircraft.

Some 160 V-22 "Osprey" aircraft are in service, most with the marines as the MV-22. The other user is SOCOM (Special Operations Command), which uses the slightly different CV-22. Since it entered service five years ago V-22s have flown over 130,000 hours. The 27 ton MV-22B cruises at 445 kilometers an hour and its endurance is about 3.5 hours per sortie. The MV-22B can carry up to 32 troops or nine tons of cargo.

While users of the new American V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft are happy with their unique hybrid, the accountants are less pleased. It was recently revealed that the V-22 readiness (ready for action) rate was only 53 percent, versus 82 percent that the manufacturer had promised. The problem is that, despite being a wonderful feat of engineering that is now capable of serving in a combat zone, the V-22 is very mechanically complex and very expensive, as well as being difficult to keep operational. This is only the latest problem the V-22 has had with costs and reliability.

Since the V-22 entered service the estimated lifetime cost of operating the aircraft has increased 64 percent to $121.5 billion. Although the major user (the U.S. Marine Corps) MV-22s have an excellent safety and reliability record, they are very expensive (over $116 million each).



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