US Marines prepare V-22 Osprey for first combat deployment
By Rebecca Christie
Last Update: 2:01 PM ET Apr 4, 2007

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The U.S. Marine Corps is preparing its new V-22 Osprey aircraft for their first combat deployment, expected later this year, program manager Col. Matt Mulhern said Wednesday.
Boeing Co.

Bell Helicopter unit make the V-22 tilt-rotor, which can take off like a
helicopter and fly like a plane. The Marines say the program is on track, despite periodic technical snags.

For example, the V-22s were briefly grounded by a flight computer problem that took a few weeks to resolve. Also, the Marines have sought to improve the aircraft hydraulics systems to make them more resilient when something goes wrong.

Mulhern said he expects the V-22 will be declared combat capable this summer, with first deployment likely in September or October. The Marines are preparing the aircraft for a hot, high-altitude environment such as Iraq or Afghanistan, even though it's not yet clear where the new aircraft will go.

"We are preparing for the squadron to go to Iraq, but that is the commandant's call," Mulhern said at a press briefing at the Navy League's annual trade show.

The Marines also are monitoring the contractors to keep manufacturing on track. The V-22 is the centerpiece of the Marines' aviation modernization strategy, and their ship-to-shore troop transport plan will be based around its speed and range.

Bell Helicopter still has not resolved all of its manufacturing difficulties, Mulhern said. The company has changed management and worked hard to bolster its supply base, but it still has more to do.

"They're not there yet. They're working it," Mulhern said.

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