Is it a plane? Is it a bird? No, it's the V-22: American pilots in Iraq and Afghanistan have encountered Boeing's V-22 plane-helicopter on several occasions, yet they too keep raving about what is considered the world's most advance military aircraft.
The aircraft will not be heading to Israel just yet, but a quick flight in the unusual machine, which combines the features of a helicopter and plane, is sufficient in order to be impressed by its unique capabilities.
At first glance at a US Air Force Base in Boston, the V-22's shape appears rather odd, as one would expect of the abilities it combines. The glimpse given to a group of Israeli reporters made clear the aircraft's amazing features, as well as the way it can carry no less than 22 combatants in fairly convenient conditions.
Odd shape, amazing capabilities (Photo: Hanan Greenberg)
The blades installed on the plane's wings can change their angle on takeoff, allowing the aircraft to take off from anywhere on earth, including at sea. The V-22 can also accelerate quickly as it reaches its top speed of roughly 500 kilometers per hour, more than three times that of any other helicopter. Such features can greatly help in accelerating crucial operations such as the evacuation of wounded and the deployment of Special Forces at any point.
Our flight aboard the V-22 lasted about 75 minutes. The experience was reminiscent of flights aboard the Israeli Yasur helicopter and Hercules plane, yet IDF officials are aware that these aircraft had been in service for many years – and consider the V-22 as a future option.
So how much would such machine cost us? Quite a bit. One aircraft goes for $40 million, without considering the costs of integrating Israeli systems in it. A senior Boeing official said that the aircraft could greatly help Israel's Air Force contend with its missions and estimated that Israeli interest in the V-22 is only a matter of time.
As noted, the pilots are no less excited. First Lieutenant Stewart, a Marines pilot, says the V-22's combined capabilities grant it many significant advantages. Other pilots who flew the V-22 operationally in Iraq and Afghanistan also spoke highly of it.
Yet for the time being, officials in Israel are formulating their policy regarding new fighter jet F-35. The final decision on whether to acquire it has not yet been taken. The bone of contention at this time has to do with integrating Israeli systems into the stealth aircraft, as well as its high price.