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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 plane, which is intended to replace the Corps' 40-year-old fleet of CH-46 helicopters by 2018, can fly like a plane and land like a helicopter, giving the Marines more flexibility in the field, officials said.
There have been four significant failures during testing:
* On 11 June 1991, a miswired flight control system led to two minor injuries when the left nacelle struck the ground while the plane was hovering 15 feet in the air, causing it to bounce and catch fire.
* On 20 July 1992, a leaking gearbox led to a fire in the right nacelle, causing the plane to drop into the Potomac River in front of an audience of Congressmen and other government officials at Quantico, killing all seven crewmen and grounding the plane for 11 months. The seven crewmembers were Brian J. James (copilot), Sean P. Joyce (crew chief), Gary Leader (crew chief), Gerald W. Mayan (instrumentation engineer), Robert Rayburn (flight test engineer), Anthony J. Stecyk, Jr. (mechanic), and Patrick J. Sullivan (pilot). James, Joyce and Leader served in the US Marine Corps. Mayan, Rayburn, Stecyk and Sullivan were employees of The Boeing Company.