Flown by the 8th Special Operations Squadron (the Blackbirds 8 SOS) out of Hurlburt Field the V-22 Osprey is a one of a kind aircraft in a world dominated by fixed wings.
Capable of VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) and STOL (Short-runway Takeoff and Landing) while carrying a payload of up to 20,000 kg and with a top speed of over 450 km/h the Osprey is able to transport troops and cargo further and faster than any VTOL aircraft before it.
Development started in 1981 after the US Department of Defence decided that a new option was required for getting troops into and out of tricky situations. This fact was highlighted by the embarrassing failure of the Iran hostage rescue mission in 1980. The JVX (Joint Vertical Take-off/landing Experimental) program was started in earnest. Bell Helicopter and Boeing Helicopter would eventually jointly win the contract to build the tilt rotor aircraft giving Special Forces a new option, a unique option that no other military force could match.
The test aircraft was completed by 1985 and designated the V-22 Osprey by 1988 the Osprey was rolled out for the world to see. Testing would continue from 1989 till its introduction into service in 2008, although this did include 7 years of crew training and quite a few spectacular crashes. The completed Osprey is able to fly twice as fast as the fastest helicopters in service and is now considered combat ready.
Controversy has followed the Osprey at every turn during its troubled birth; much of the controversy surrounding the Osprey however are non-technical in nature and revolves around the massive budget blowout of development and production. Originally projected to cost $2.5 billion to reach operation that cost has now blown out to more than $37 billion dollars, it sounds like someone put a decimal place in the wrong spot.
The complexity of the aircraft does make it more expensive than a helicopter equivalent, almost twice the cost, but its high speed and flexibility do more than make up for this in our opinion.
The most striking and unique aircraft since Sikorsky started experimenting with helicopters the Osprey is now in service delivering Special Forces into and get them back out of tricky situations all over the world. Proving that being a little different is always a positive the Osprey is nothing short of spectacular, especially when you see it in action.