WASHINGTON — The Army, in a move that could drive up expenses for the other armed services, has decided to withdraw from a program to develop and produce a tilt-rotor combat aircraft, officials said Friday.
The tilt-rotor craft, designated the V-22 Osprey, is a top priority for the Marine Corps. The Navy, Air Force and Army were intrigued by the plane, however, and planned to buy some for their own use.
The craft is designed to take off and land like a helicopter but fly like an airplane.
The Army had not been involved in funding the research and development work. But its withdrawal from the program will reduce the number of planes the Pentagon buys, driving up the cost of the remaining planes because development expenses will be spread over fewer aircraft, officials said.
"We will be informing the Marine Corps that because of our budget problems, we no longer anticipate buying any V-22s," Army spokesman Maj. Phil Soucy said. "This has nothing to do with any concerns about the performance of the aircraft or its development. The question is money, and one of the things we don't have money for now is the V-22."
213 Fewer Ospreys
Before Friday's decision, the Defense Department was planning to buy at least 913 Ospreys, 231 of those for the Army. The Army's withdrawal drops that total to 682--552 for the Marines, 50 for the Navy and 80 for the Air Force.
The Pentagon had earlier estimated total program expenses for 913 Ospreys--including research and development work--at $23.1 billion in 1986 dollars.
Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. and the Boeing Vertol Co. are working together in a partnership to design and build the first V-22s.