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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The military's controversial V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft will head to Iraq for its first combat tour later this year, Marine officials announced Friday.
After 18 years and $20 billion in development, the plane will deploy to western Iraq in September to support Marine Corps combat operations for seven months, Marine officials said.
The seven-month deployment by some 10 MV-22B assault transports of VMM-263, the first operational Osprey squadron, will come 24 years after the tiltrotor was selected to replace the USMC’s Boeing CH-46 helicopters, which are now almost 40 years old.
The Marines have lost seven CH-46s in combat operations in Iraq, and commanders believe the half-helicopter/half-aeroplane V-22 will offer greater survivability because it can fly faster and higher and has features designed-in to reduce vulnerability.