The first Ospreys land in Iraq given to the Thunder Chickens

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The first Ospreys land in Iraq given to the Thunder Chickens

The V-22 Osprey has arrived in a combat zone for the first time.

It was an epic trip for the tilt-rotor plane, one that took more than 25 years of development and cost 30 lives and $20 billion. Even the last short hop - from an aircraft carrier into Iraq - went awry, U.S. military officials said yesterday.

A malfunction forced one of the 10 Ospreys that were deployed to land in Jordan on Thursday. The Marines flew parts to it from Iraq and repaired it. After it took off again Saturday, the problem recurred, and it had to turn back and land in Jordan a second time, said Maj. Jeff Pool, a U.S. military spokesman in western Iraq. The Osprey finally was repaired and arrived at Asad air base in western Iraq late Sunday afternoon.

Maj. Eric Dent, an Osprey spokesman at Marine headquarters in Washington, declined to identify the problem.
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The nature of the malfunction was a minor issue, but our aircrews are top-notch when it comes to safety. Rather than continue, the aircrew opted to land at a predetermined divert location and further investigate the issue.

Now the Osprey is on the world stage, and the burden of proving it is safe and effective in combat lies with the North Carolina-based Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, nicknamed the "Thunder Chickens." The unit's mission will be transporting troops and cargo in western Iraq.

It will perform that mission in ways that no other military transporters have done in combat. The Osprey - which costs $110 million each, including development costs - takes off and lands like a helicopter but tilts its engines forward to fly like an airplane. It is jointly produced by the Boeing Co. in Ridley Township, Delaware County, and Bell Helicopter Textron of Fort Worth, Texas.

Its arrival in Iraq is aviation history, said Bob Leder, a spokesman for the Bell-Boeing partnership.

"This is a big thing - the introduction of a new type of aircraft into combat, totally different from the way things have been done before," he said.

Leder said the company believed that the Osprey and the squadron would do well but that years of criticism and heavy media attention were putting huge pressure on the unit to perform.

The aircraft's problems have generated a gallery of vocal detractors, who say that not only is it too expensive and too dangerous but that it performs poorly and has become little more than an extraordinarily expensive bus.

The Osprey made the cover of Time magazine last week in a highly critical article that called it A Flying Shame. Time notes that:

It's hard to imagine an American weapons program so fraught with problems that Dick Cheney would try repeatedly to cancel it — hard, that is, until you get to know the Osprey.

As Defense Secretary under George H.W. Bush, Cheney tried four times to kill the Marine Corps's ungainly tilt-rotor aircraft. Four times he failed.

Cheney found the arguments for the combat troop carrier unpersuasive and its problems irredeemable.
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Given the risk we face from a military standpoint, given the areas where we think the priorities ought to be, the V-22 is not at the top of the list.

It came out at the bottom of the list, and for that reason, I decided to terminate it.
But the Osprey proved impossible to kill, thanks to lawmakers who rescued it from Cheney's ax time and again because of the home-district money that came with it — and to the irresistible notion that American engineers had found a way to improve on another great aviation breakthrough, the helicopter.

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By netchicken: posted on 10-10-2007

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