Bell Helicopter's tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey aircraft, which has survived many previous political battles, came under intense fire Tuesday from government auditors and a congressional hearing.
At the conclusion of the hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the chairman, Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-New York, said Osprey production should be halted.
"It's time to put the Osprey out of its misery and the taxpayers out of their misery," Towns said, endorsing a study that recommended that the Pentagon and Marine Corps buy new helicopters as well as V-22s.
In a report released to coincide with the hearing, the Government Accountability Office took a different view of the Osprey's performance in Iraq. The GAO said that after more than 25 years of development and $27 billion in taxpayer money, the V-22 may not be capable of meeting the challenge of combat missions in Afghanistan.
"It's incapable of performing the original way it was intended," Michael Sullivan, who directed the GAO study, told the committee.
But whether Towns' recommendation or the GAO findings will carry any weight with other members of the House Armed Forces Committee and the Appropriations Committee remains to be seen.
On Tuesday, Marine leaders strongly defended the aircraft's record, as they have in the past.
Lt. Gen. George Trautman III, deputy commandant of aviation, said the V-22 "has been a game changer in Iraq" because of its speed and ability to fly higher than helicopters.
When the V-22 is dispatched to Afghanistan this year, Trautman said, its capabilities will "enable troops to win battles and will save lives."
Sullivan said the evidence that the GAO pulled from the Marines' maintenance and operational records, their own post-action reports and interviews with personnel "raise questions about whether the [Osprey] is best suited to accomplish the full repertoire of missions of the helicopters it is intended to replace."
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