The V-22 Osprey: A crash decades in the making

Yesterday’s crash of an MV-22 Osprey off the coast of Australia marks the latest in a decades-long string of serious mishaps with the versatile aircraft. While originally intended to provide a unique mix of agility, speed, and range, the tilt-rotor aircraft has been persistently criticized as wildly expensive, ineffective, and unsafe.

The V-22, developed by Bell Helicopter and Boeing’s helicopter unit, is primarily designed to ferry ground troops into combat. Its distinctive tilting rotors let it take off vertically like a helicopter, then transition to a faster horizontal fixed-wing mode.

But developing that concept to its fullest has proven extremely costly, and according to critics, the promise was never truly fulfilled. The project’s cost ballooned from a $68.7 million design contract in 1983 (the aircraft’s maiden flight took place in 1989) to $29.1 billion for research and procurement by 2009, when the estimated average cost per vehicle was $83.7 million. By 2012, some estimates put the total cost at $56 billion and the cost per unit at $100 million.

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