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.11111061.01.4,,Of course, there’s plenty of pork in the Pentagon budget. But the V-22’s story is extraordinary by any measure: It has cost more and killed more personnel than any other aircraft now being developed by the U.S. military. Here’s how it became one of the most dangerous aircraft in the American arsenal. -1arry Bell was an innovator. By the mid-1950s, the from daring designer om Indiana had revolutionized the aerospace business in both airplanes and helicopters. 4 He had built the P-29 Airacomet, the American mil itary’s very first jet-powered airplane, which was tested with great secrecy during World War II. He had designed the rocket-propelled X-1, which broke the sound barrier while being flown by noted test pilot Chuck Yeager in 1947. He had also designed the Bell 47-B, the first commercially licensed helicopter. Shortly after getting the 47-B into the market, Bell lent his 1948 Senate campaign against Coke Stevenson. Bell provided the helicopter to Johnson for free. In the early 1950s, Bell moved his company, Bell Helicopter, to the outskirts of Fort Worth and began pursuing contracts with the Pentagon. In 1958, Bell Helicopter got its first major contract from the U.S. Army for the aircraft that was destined to become an icon of the Vietnam War, the UH-1, better known as the Huey. That same year, Bell Helicopter had the first successful flight of an experimental aircraft known as the XV-3. The company told the Dallas Morning News that it had “achieved a major breakthrough in aviation engineering” by flying the world’s first “tilting-rotor fixed-wing aircraft:’ In theory, tilt-rotor aircraft have an advantage that has always been critical in warfare: speed. Helicopters are tremendously useful machines but compared to airplanes, they are quite slow. That’s due to the drag created by the helicopter’s blades. When a helicopter hovers in one place, the rotor blades push air straight down and therefore create lift in all areas of the blades’ diameter. To make the aircraft go forward, the pilot pushes the cyclic control forward, which causes the rotor system to tilt forward, thus allowing the aircraft to begin accelerating. However, as the helicopter picks up speed, the air flowing over the rotor blades gets imbalanced. The resulting air disturbance begins to impede the progress of the aircraft and limit its forward speed. Even the fastest helicopters have trouble reaching speeds of 200 miles per hour. The tilt-rotor design solves the airflow problem by turning the rotor into allows the aircraft to turn all of the thrust from the rotor blades into forward thrust, and that permits the V-22 to fly in excess of 300 miles per hour. The V-22 also claims to have a range of some 2,500 miles, several times the range of a standard helicopter. However, the actual range of the V-22 has been grossly exaggerated. Bell and the Marines have repeatedly said the aircraft’s “self-deployment range” is 2,500 miles. But it’s only by asking for more specifics that Bell’s PR people admit that Vice President Dick Cheney White House photo: Susan Sterner “self-deployment” includes hooking up to a flying tanker for an aerial refueling. Without refueling, the V-22’s range is about 590 miles, little better than a standard helicopter. Several modern helicopters now have ranges of 500 miles or more. And the V-22 refueling issue has not been fully resolved. The V-22 has not yet been cleared by Pentagon safety officials for aerial refueling, a fact that the GAO noted in its 2001 report on the airplane. The Marines have always wanted to move as fast as possible. And given a choice, they want to do it vertically. That’s why they love the Harrierthe most dangerous fighter aircraft in existenceand that’s why they love the V-22. Like the Harrier, the Marines see the V-22 as an aircraft that will give them greater range of operations and less need for standard airports. And like the Harrier, the Marine Corps has staked its reputation and committed billions of dollars by making the V-22 its top aviation priority. In 1991, one active-duty Marine wrote a report that said the aircraft was “crucial to the Marine Corps’ over-the-horizon, amphibious assault missionproviding for vertical envelopment from over-the-horizon distances which will increase amphibious ship protection and enemy surprise well into the next century.” The Marines are hoping that the V-22 will replace the CH-46 helicopter, a troop carrier that has been in use since the Vietnam War. The Pentagon’s push for the V-22 began in 1981 at the Paris Air Show, when then-Secretary of the Navy John Lehman saw Bell’s tilt-rotor aircraft and became intrigued. The Secretary of the Air Force, Hans Mark, who had helped Bell develop the V-22 prototype while he was director of a research center for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, sold Lehman on the aircraft. Within a few months of Mark’s pitch, the Army, the Navy, and the Marines were all pursuing the V-22. In 1982, Bell and Boeing, the Seattle-based aerospace giant, formed a joint venture to push the new aircraft. In 1986, the two companies were rewarded for their effort and got a $1.7 billion military contract. The following year, the Pentagon said it would purchase 913 V-22s at a cost of about $33.2 billion. The cost per aircraft: $36.4 million. But in 1988, the Army pulled out of the program, saying the V-22s were too expensive. At that point, the Pentagon reduced the scope 6/18/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7