I was beyond skeptical when Wired announced that the crash-prone Osprey tilt-rotor craft was being cleared for take-off. After all, twenty years and $19 billion in the V-22's development, the craft was still having trouble handling sharp banks and U-turns last September.But things seem to have changed. In July, Navy testers declared the Osprey "operationally suitable." Now, the sticklers at the Pentagon's Operational Test and Evaluation Directorate are getting ready to "endorse the findings of naval testers," according to Inside the Navy, "who found the Osprey to be... effective for military use and recommended introducing the aircraft to the fleet."Which means the Marines may get their wish for a craft that combines the speed of an airplane with a helicopter's ability to takeoff without a runway.After two fatal crashes in 2000, Congress decreed Osprey production would stay at a minimum sustaining rate -- which has since turned out to be 11 aircraft annually -- until the defense secretary certifies that successful operational testing proved the program had overcome previously identified problems involving hydraulics, flight control software, reliability and maintainability...The Pentagon is set to decide whether to buy the aircraft in large quantities at a Defense Acquisition Board meeting Sept. 27.
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