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Combat-ready V-22 delivered

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  • Combat-ready V-22 delivered

    Combat-ready V-22 delivered

    Special ceremony marks upgraded Osprey craft

    By Jim McBride
    Publication Date: 12/09/05

    Wounded Marines were on Marine Lt. Gen. Jim Amos' mind Thursday when he accepted the first combat-ready V-22 Osprey.

    Marines will be wounded tonight in Iraq, the general said, and they'll be shuttled out of harm's way in noisy, aging CH-46 helicopters back to their base, a flight that takes about an hour. A V-22, he said, can make the same flight in about 20 minutes.

    Amos spoke to a crowd of about 1,000 plant workers and dignitaries Thursday at Amarillo's Bell helicopter plant during a special ceremony touting delivery of the first Block B V-22 craft to the Marines.

    The Block B craft is the latest upgraded Bell Boeing V-22 to come off the line. But unlike the 69 other V-22s that came before it, the new version will be ready for combat when duty calls in 2007.

    The CH-46 can only lift 12 equipped Marines; the V-22 can carry twice as many to and from the battlefield.

    "Marines are going to get themselves in a fight tonight. It happens every night, and they are going to want to get reinforced," he said. "In this airplane, you can put 24 combat-loaded Marines. ... We can come in the enemy's back door and he'll never know we're there."

    Col. Bill Taylor, a Marine Corps program manager, said the V-22 has twice the speed, three times the payload and five to six times the range of the CH-46.

    Tom Laux, program executive officer for U.S. Naval Systems Command, noted that the V-22 has had its share of critics over the years.

    But Laux said solid work performed at the Bell plant and other Boeing facilities has silenced most of them.

    "You have delivered on your promise," he said. "The proof is in the pudding right behind me."

    Lt. Col. Paul Rock, the commanding officer of the first operational V-22 squadron, VMM-263, quoted a line from John Paul Jones, credited with founding the U.S Navy. Rock, who will command the squadron at the Marine Corps Air Station in New River, N.C., thanked Bell Boeing employees for their work on the program.

    "Give me a fast ship for I intend to go in harm's way," he said. "That's my fast ship. ... Without your work, we don't go anywhere."

    James Darcy, a spokesman for the V-22 Joint Program Office in Maryland, said the V-22 has been subjected to live-fire testing and tests indicate the craft can withstand hostile fire more readily than aircraft it will replace. Darcy said some details about the testing are classified, but redundant V-22 capabilities make it more robust under fire.

    "It's on the order, depending which you're comparing to, 6 to 10 times as survivable under enemy fire as any of the legacy platforms that it will replace," Darcy said.

    Click here to return to story:

    The Amarillo Globe-News Online