The Department of the Navy announced today that the MV-22 Osprey has been judged operationally effective and operationally suitable for land-based operations, validating eight months of comprehensive evaluation. This achievement moves the tiltrotor aircraft a major step closer to full-rate production, Marine Corps officials said today. Marine Corps and Navy leaders were briefed Wednesday on the MV-22 operational evaluation report, issued by the Navy's Operational Test and Evaluation Command. The report stopped short of declaring the aircraft suitable for ship-based operations, pending additional evaluation of the blade fold wing stow system. Since completion of operational evaluation, the system designed to fold and stow the prop rotors and wings was modified and successfully demonstrated at the V-22 final-assembly facility in Amarillo, Texas.

Follow-on evaluation at sea is expected to be completed by Nov. 15. Successful sea-trials will pave the way to full-rate production and multi-year procurement.

While the issue of shipboard compatibility awaits resolution, the report confirmed that the MV-22 met or exceeded all other key performance parameters. In key capabilities, the MV-22 proved its overwhelming superiority to the CH-46E and CH-53D, the aging medium-lift aircraft the Osprey will replace. In the most telling comparison -- to the CH-46E -- the MV-22 boasts twice the speed, five times the range and triple the payload capacity. The report concluded that these and other enhancements unique to the MV-22 would revolutionize assault-support operations.

Capable of taking off and landing like a helicopter and also flying like a turboprop airplane, the MV-22 entered operational evaluation in November 1999 with fewer deficiencies than any aircraft in the history of naval aviation. It did so while facing unprecedented reliability standards, exposing more blemishes early on but ultimately resulting in a safer, more reliable aircraft. During exhaustive evaluation at Marine and naval facilities throughout the country, the MV-22 logged 805 flight hours in 522 sorties. The Multi-Service Operational Test Team evaluated the aircraft's suitability for use by Marine Corps' operating forces through a series of representative missions from amphibious ships, airfields, remote sites, confined areas, ranges and other test facilities. A decision on whether to proceed with full-rate production is expected later this year. -END-