First White House V-22 Osprey delivered to Marines

The first of 12 Marine Corps versions of the V-22 Osprey has been delivered to Marine Helicopter Squadron One, the military unit responsible for transporting President Obama, top administration officials and White House staff. 

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The Osprey arrived at Marine Corps headquarters in Quantico, Va., on Thursday, according to a service statement. The aircraft, built by Bell-Boeing, is designed to take off and land like a helicopter and fly like a fixed-wing plane.

The helicopter-fixed wing hybrid aircraft will be officially assigned to the White House squadron on April 5. 

While Obama will continue to travel aboard Marine One, the incoming Ospreys will replace the the CH-46 Sea Knights and CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters that make up the bulk of the White House's fleet. 

"The Ospreys will conduct presidential support missions, which means these aircraft will carry presidential support staff and news media representatives traveling with the president," according to the service statement. 

Those Osprey flights for support staff and media traveling with the president will not begin until next year, according to the Marine Corps. 

The V-22s assigned to the White House will essentially be the same configuration as the ones flown by Marine Corps pilots in war zones like Afghanistan, according to John Rader, Bell-Boeing's vice president for the Osprey. 

However, some upgrades will be required, such as improvements to the passenger area and upgraded communications systems, in order to fill the mission requirements for VIP transport, Rader said last year, when the Osprey deal with the White House was announced. 

The early days of the Osprey's development were plagued by mechanical failures and a slew of accidents. An Osprey crash in April 2000 killed 19 Marines when the aircraft rolled over sideways while landing during a training exercise.

Last August, the Marine Corps cleared the Osprey fleet as fit for duty after a five-month investigation into a fatal crash in North Africa that killed two Marines. 

"The aircraft did not suffer from any mechanical or material failures,” service officials said at the time, adding “there were no issues with the safety of the aircraft." 

The addition of the Osprey to the White House is the first attempt to revamp the White House fleet since a failed effort to upgrade the Marine One helicopter with a newer aircraft. 

The Pentagon had selected Lockheed Martin's VH-71 to replace the aging VH-3D helicopters that made up the entire presidential transport fleet.  

In 2009, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates suspended the program due to excessive development delays and cost overruns on the program. The Navy canceled the effort months later.