Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The Bell Boeing Joint Project Office is being awarded $18 million for engineering work on the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
The modification to an existing contract, announced Wednesday by the Department of Defense, applies to Osprey's in use by the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and the government of Japan under Foreign Military Sales.The engineering work is expected to run through December 2022.
The V-22 Osprey is the primary assault support aircraft of the U.S. Marine Corps. It has a unique design that uses twin rotor engines for vertical take-off and landing that can be tilted forward for conventional turboprop flight, allowing much higher speed and endurance than conventional helicopters.
It can carry 24 fully equipped Marines and has a range of nearly 600 miles, greatly exceeding conventional helicopters. It also forms part of the U.S. President's HMX-1 squadron for transporting staff and equipment.
A Navy aircraft carrier and sea base supply and personnel delivery version called the CMV-22B with longer range and cargo capacity is being deployed as well.
The Air Force also deploys a version of the aircraft for special operations purposes.
The Osprey has faced a number of design problems with accidents that have killed dozens, causing controversy over it's innovative but complex design and development time going back to 1989.