Osprey Tiltrotors Flying in Iraq; Mini-gun Testing Begins
The controversial Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey is now flying in a combat zone for the first time. The U.S. Marine Corps deployed 10 of the tiltrotor assault aircraft to western Iraq earlier this month. Their performance there will be scrutinized closely by critics of the V-22 program, who charge that the aircraft is difficult to fly and vulnerable to enemy fire while landing. Coincidentally, BAE Systems announced this month that it had begun testing a remotely operated 7.62-mm mini-gun system that fits in a turret that could be belly-mounted on the MV-22, providing the aircraft with a 360-degree suppressive fire capability. AIN last covered the Osprey in detail in our Farnborough 2006 editions, [Marines extol V-22’s performance] when two MV-22s were flown across the Atlantic to the show. That exercise demonstrated the hybrid aircraft’s long-range ferry capability, as compared to the CH-46 assault helicopters that it is designed to replace. But the Marines declined to repeat this method of deployment last month. The 10 MV-22s were sent on an aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean, from where they flew via a stop in Jordan to Al-Asad airbase.