|SLUG: 2-275064 Marines Osprey (L-only)||DATE:||NOTE NUMBER:|
TITLE=MARINES/OSPREY (L ONLY)
INTRO: A special Pentagon panel is recommending that the U-S Marine Corps go ahead with development of the controversial tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft. But as V-O-A Correspondent Alex Belida reports from the Pentagon, the panel wants changes.
TEXT: The four-man panel rejects the option of cancelling the Osprey program. But it concludes further development and production will require changes to enhance the aircraft's reliability and to make it easier to maintain.
The panel made up of two retired generals and two civilian aviation experts was appointed last year following two fatal Osprey crashes that claimed the lives of 23 Marines.
According to a Pentagon spokesman, the panel will convey its formal recommendations to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld next week and release its final report at the end of the month.
The spokesman says the panel endorses tilt-rotor technology and concludes the Osprey can perform the mission it was designed for. The panel says however that a number of structural and other improvements are necessary before there can be full-scale production. It also believes the Osprey program is under-funded.
The Marine Corps wants over 300 Ospreys to replace its aging fleet of helicopters. The Osprey can take off and land like a helicopter but fly like an airplane. The Marine Corps says it can fly farther, faster and with a larger cargo or personnel capacity than its existing helicopters. (Signed)