Procurement: V-22 Orders Cut

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April 10,2008: The U.S. Department of Defense has changed its plans for V22 aircraft purchases, cutting the order from 202 to 167. The aircraft will cost $63 million each and be produced at the rate of about 33 a year. The Air Force Special Operations Command will get 26 CV-22 aircraft, while another 141 MV-22 aircraft will go to the U.S. Marine Corps.

Earlier plans called for the purchase of 171 MV-22 aircraft for the marines, and 31 for air force SOCOM (Special Operations Command) units. The plan would have had up to 35 V-22s a year produced, from 2008 to 2013.

The U.S. Air Force component of SOCOM will use the CV-22 to replace the current MH-53J special operations helicopters. The CV-22, unlike the U.S. Marine Corps version, the MV-22, will have lots more expensive electronics on board. This will help the CV-22 when traveling into hostile territory. The CV-22 also carries a terrain avoidance radar, an additional 900 gallons of fuel and more gadgets in general. The 25 ton CV-22 is a major improvement on the MH-53, with three times the range, and a higher cruising speed (at 410 kilometers an hour, twice that of the helicopter). The CV-22 can travel about nearly a thousand kilometers, in any weather, and land or pick up 18 fully equipped commandoes.

On the downside, the V-22 is several years behind schedule. It's a very complex aircraft, and has encountered more development problems than expected. This is the first application of the tilt-rotor technology to do active service. The air force is already working on improvements (to make the V22 more reliable and easier to maintain), that won't be installed for another five years. The CV-22 will give SOCOM a lot more capability, but, as it often the case, it will be a lot more expensive. The initial production models will cost close to $100 million each. SOCOM insists on a high degree of reliability for its aircraft. Commando operations cannot tolerate too many mistakes without getting fatally derailed. The V-22 has not been noted for high reliability. It's a very complex piece of work.

The Navy MV-22s can carry 24 troops 700 kilometers (vertical take-off on a ship, level flight, landing, and return) at 390 kilometers an hour. The V-22 is replacing the CH-46E helicopter, which can carry 12 troops 350 kilometers at a speed of 135 kilometers an hour. The V-22 can carry a 10,000-pound external sling load 135 kilometers, while the CH-46E can carry 3,000 pounds only 90 kilometers.

The marines began using the MV-22 in Iraq late last year, and have been satisfied with the results. The SOCOM CV-22 won't ready for combat for another year.

 


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