QUANTICO, VA – Before a hangar full of Pentagon brass, politicians and defense industry executives, the Marine Corps showed off three of its newest vehicles yesterday, including Bell Helicopter Textron’s V-22 Osprey.
“We don’t see a bridge to the future in front of us. We see a leap,” said Gen. Charles Krulak, Marine Corps commandant, referring to the tilt-rotor aircraft and two smaller amphibious vehicles that will be used in seaborne landings.
He said the trio of vehicles “will literally change the way the world looks at combat.” The V-22, which can hover like a helicopter or cruise like a turboprop plane depending on the angle of its rotors, will be able to transport 24 Marines into battle.
The other two vehicles displayed with the V-22 were the advanced amphibious assault vehicle, or AAAV, an armored personnel carrier; and an upgraded version of the landing craft air cushion, or LCAC, a light vessel for equipment and troops. The new vehicles will allow Marine commanders to launch amphibious assaults from farther out at sea, or, as the Marines put it, from “over the horizon.”
The longer range enhances the element of surprise, making amphibious vehicles less likely to be hit by land-based missiles. “I believe the triad gives the wherewithal to project not just power, but influence around the world,” said Gen. Alfred Gray, the retired Marine commandant who was hailed yesterday for his advocacy of the V-22. “No one really knows what we will have to do in the next 25 to 50 years, but everyone agrees that we will probably have to do something. We might as well prepare our young warriors and give them the finest kinds of systems and capabilities that we can.”
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, said that seeing the V-22 parked next to the two amphibious craft gave her an understanding of how each is important to the Marines’ future. “This big picture is very important,” Granger said. “I wish every member of Congress were here to see it.”
The V-22, being produced by Bell and Boeing Helicopters of Ridley Township, Pa., can fly twice as fast and twice as far as conventional helicopters. It will cut in half the time Marines need to reach the shore from a ship and allow the dispatch of troops from a greater distance.
Bell and Boeing delivered the first operational V-22 to the Marines last month. Through 2012, the Marines are to get 360 V-22s, the Air Force’s special operations rescue unit is to receive 50, and the Navy 48. The Osprey on display yesterday was the first production version of the aircraft, which was handed over to the Marines by Bell and Boeing at a ceremony last month in Arlington.
The advanced amphibious assault vehicle is designed to carry a 18-member rifle unit. It goes into full production by General Dynamics in 2006. Once ashore, the AAAV is able to climb 3-foot-high walls and cross 8-foot trenches. The water-skimming landing craft is designed to take tanks and other heavy equipment ashore.
The LCAC is produced by Bell’s parent company, Textron, in New Orleans. The vehicle has been in production since the 1980s, but was recently upgraded.
Michael D. Towle, (202) 383-6104 firstname.lastname@example.org
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