Bell Boeing has recently delivered its 400th V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The aircraft, a CV-22 for U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, marks over twenty years of service for this remarkable aircraft. The V-22 takes off, hovers, and lands like a helicopter yet is capable of flying long distances like a turboprop aircraft with its revolutionary pivoting rotors.
First prototypes of the aircraft flew in 1989 and the first production V-22 was delivered on May 24, 1999. Despite suffering cost overruns in its protracted development cycle which meant that the type would not become operational until 2007, the V-22 has since seen ample combat use in Afghanistan, Iraq and around worldwide use with US forces.
Globally the aircraft has accumulated more than 500,000 flight hours, though a number of accidents related to the aircraft have been a cause of some concern. However, Boeing and the U.S. military maintain that the safety of the V-22 is solid.
Speaking on the utility of the aircraft Marine Corps Col. Matthew Kelly, program manager for the V-22 Joint Program Office, said that:
“It’s been over 20 years since the first production V-22 was delivered and we are proud to reach another milestone in our 400th delivery. V-22s continue to be in high demand, protecting our country and our allies around the world through combat operations, international training partnerships and humanitarian missions. This platform’s impact can’t be overstated.”
Multiple variants have been built to fulfil different requirements with customers. The CV-22 variant performs special operations missions that conventional aircraft can’t, while the Marine Corps variant, the MV-22B, provides transportation for personnel, supplies, and equipment for combat assault and fleet logistics. The Navy variant, the CMV-22B, is the replacement for the C-2A Greyhound for the carrier onboard delivery mission.
Though export sales have been limited to the Japanese Self-Defence Forces, who operate five V-22s, a number of other potential users have evaluated the aircraft – no doubt attracted by the combination of the tactical flexibility of a helicopter combined with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft in a single package.