The newest United States Marine Corps aircraft to take flight is either airplane nor nor helicopter. It's a tilt-rotor and officially its known as a powered lift aircraft. Powered lift aircraft can takeoff and land vertically like a helicopter but they operate like an airplane while in cruise flight.
While the MV-22 may be the newest aircraft in the Marine Corps inventory it's first flight occurred almost 20 years ago in March 1989. The Osprey is a joint effort from a variety of leading aeronautical firms. Bell Helicopter makes the wing, nacelles, drive system, tail surfaces and aft loading ramp. Rolls Royce makes the engines. Boeing Helicopter makes the fuselage, cockpit, avionics and flight controls.
The MV-22 is the result of research undertaken by Bell Helicopter in conjunction with NASA and the US Army in the form of the XV-15. The XV-15 was a technology demonstrator built to explore the concept of tilt-rotor flight for both civil and military roles. Its first flight was in May 1977. A total of two aircraft were built. The XV-15 played a significant role in the development of the MV-22. Of the two XV-15's built, one crashed in 1992 and the remaining one was transferred to the Smithsonian in 2003 after being retired from test flight operations.
The MV-22 has seen its share of problems and setbacks. The program suffered two fatal crashes with the loss of all aboard as well as a number of minor incidents. The combination of a new hybrid aircraft that required new design, engineering, and operating methods put considering obstacles in the path of the design, engineering, and flight test teams. It seems that the problems that plagued the program have been remedied. The MV-22 passed its final assessment flights in June 2005. These flights are designed to simulate operations in real world conditions and include shipboard operations, combat insertions and extracts, long-range deployments, high altitude operations, desert operations and cold weather operations.
The MV-22 was approved for full-scale production in September 2005. It's the first tilt rotor aircraft to enter production. The first operational Marine Corps tilt rotor squadron, VMM-263, will deploy to Iraq sometime in the fall of 2007.
The MV-22 features a glass cockpit that uses a total of five displays. Two Multi Function Displays (MFD) for each pilot and a shared Central Display. The system allows the pilots to display information relating to navigation, terrain, weather, engine and systems operation and status, forward looking infra-red (FLIR) imagery and moving maps in a variety of ways. The aircraft features an automated flight control system (autopilot) capable of relocating the aircraft from forward flight to a 50 ft. hover hands off.
The Osprey is also fly by wire, which means there is no mechanical link between the pilots' controls in the cockpit and the Osprey's flight control surfaces. Instead computers measure the force being applied to a particular control, interpret what the pilot wanted the aircraft to do and move the flight controls accordingly.
The VM-22 will revolutionize vertical envelope warfare, which the Marine Corps began developing in the late 1940's. The Air Force and Navy are also set to receive the Osprey.
In Air Force service it will operate with the Special Operations Command where it's speed and versatility are an ideal fit for the command's mission, deep insertion and extraction of special operations forces. The Navy version will be used for combat search and rescue, fleet logistics, and to insert and extract SEAL teams.
A civil version of the tilt rotor also exists. It's the Bell 609 and its expected to receive FAA certification by 2010.