Add Cash Woes to Osprey's Crash Woes

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The recent crash of a Marine V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor is raising questions about the corps's need for the hybrid aircraft. New cost figures for the fledgling program will raise even more. Following the tragic Arizona crash, which killed 19 Marines during a mock nighttime rescue mission, Marine officers pegged the cost of a V-22 at about $40 million. Lieut. General Fred McCorkle, the Marine aviation chief, bristled at the suggestion that the airplane's price tag was really twice that, calling it "an inaccurate representation of what they cost." But late last week Pentagon bean counters released the latest cost figures for the military's major weapons programs. The V-22s' bottom line, it reported, is $38 billion for 458 tilt-rotors. That's $83 million each. Even more disconcerting, the price of each V-22 jumped by more than $4 million during the past three months.

But Marines, being Marines, are defending their position. The price, they acknowledged, doesn't include inflation. Nor does it include nearly $7 billion in development costs needed to get the Osprey into the air. "That development money," a Marine spokeswoman earnestly explained, "has already been spent." The Marines insist that the V-22's extra range and speed make it worth the extra money.