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Sat, May 17, 2003

DOD Orders New Tilt-Rotors

New Show Of Confidence In Osprey? Not On Capitol Hill.

The Department of Defense has ordered 11 new V-22 Ospreys from a consortium led by Boeing and Bell-Textron, totalling $817 million. But a new report from Congress threatens to further stall the Osprey program, keeping it from going into full production as planned.

The Order

The military tilt-rotor program was in true danger of being cancelled after 23 Marines died in Osprey crashes three years ago. For 17 months, the program has been grounded while manufactures redesigned the hydraulic systems and other parts of the aircraft thought to have been problematic. The Marine Corps is pushing hard for full production, hoping to soon replace a fleet of transport helicopters older than many of the pilots flying them.

The Report

On the same day that the Pentagon issued the $817 million order, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, issued a report warning against putting the Osprey on the production line.

The GAO report stated, "plans to enter full-rate production without ensuring that the manufacturing processes are mature" could lead to more accidents.

Full-Steam Ahead?

Apparently unconcerned about the GAO report, the Pentagon's shopping department, the Defense Acquisition Board, will meet Tuesday to consider boosting the number of V-22 aircraft ordered each year. That number is currently set at 11 - precisely the number ordered by the DOD this week.



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