The most maligned weapons system in modern times is turning out to also be the most versatile, and maybe the safest. The V-22 Osprey was used last month to rescue a downed fighter pilot in Libya, opening a new chapter in the fast-growing chronicle of tilt-rotor successes. Many critics lost track of the Osprey when it stopped having problems years ago, so they don’t realize the fleet of 130 operational aircraft has logged over 100,000 flight hours and that the V-22 has become by far the safest rotorcraft in the Marine Corps inventory. The program has recorded only one fatal mishap in the last ten years, and in that accident — during a combat mission in Afghanistan — 16 of the 20 people on board an Air Force CV-22 that hit the ground at high speed survived due to built-in safety features. The V-22 even looks cheap to operate when measured in cost per seat mile. Needless to say, this isn’t what the Osprey’s many critics were expecting. I have written an assessment of the V-22’s recent performance for Forbes that can be found here.
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