The Marine Corps announced Friday the V-22 Osprey will see action in Iraq in September when it will be deployed for seven months to help move troops and equipment. Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, made the announcement in the Pentagon, in what was called a historic move for the Marines.
The Osprey, manufactured jointly by Textron’s Bell Helicopter in Texas and Boeing in Ridley Township, will be the first tilt-rotor aircraft used by the military. The Osprey can take off and land like a helicopter, tilt its rotors and then fly like an airplane.
The aircraft has been much-maligned for operational test failures over the years, including two fatal flights in 2000, but has the capabilities to fly faster, farther and higher than the CH-46 Sea Knight it is replacing.
Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, or VMM-263, which consists of 171 officers and Marines, will operate 10 Ospreys — known as the MV-22 in the Marine Corps.
“The commander had decided this is where the greatest need for this capability is,” said Lt. Col. Scott Fazekas, spokesman for the Marines, explaining the decision to deploy the aircraft to Iraq.
Fazekas said he has not spoken with the pilots who will be flying the V-22 in Iraq, but he has “spoken to several people who have flown the V-22 and they have every confidence in the aircraft.”
The Marines also said VMM-263 could use the Osprey to conduct casualty evacuations or liaison work in a combat environment.
Boeing spokesman Jack Satterfield said the company had expected the aircraft to be used in Iraq because of its improved capabilities.
“I think everybody who’s worked on the program is probably quite proud of the fact that the aircraft is actually going into an operational theatre,” Satterfield said. “I think everybody who has worked on it..ill expect it to do extraordinarily well.”
This will be the very first use in combat for the MV-22 Osprey.