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Thursday January 25, 2001

Probes to delay MV-22 Decision-Pentagon

WASHINGTON, USA ( Reuters ) - No decision will be made on whether to begin production of the U.S. Marine Corps' MV-22 tilt-rotor helicopter until after two investigations of the troubled $40 billion program are completed, the Pentagon said on Thursday

The statement by a Pentagon spokesman came as the Defense Department's inspector general took control of an investigation into accusations of falsified maintenance records on the MV-22 that takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane.
That investigation is in addition to a full-scale probe of the revolutionary aircraft program ordered by former Defense Secretary William Cohen last month following two crashes that killed a total of 23 marines in April and December.
``I think, at this point, it's safe to say you're not going to see ... future decisions'' until the two investigations are completed, Pentagon spokesman Craig Quigley told reporters in response to questions.
``You have several issues that need to come together here before you can proceed with confidence in making informed decisions on the future of the program,'' he said.
``And you have to have all those in hand before you can confidently go forward,'' Quigley added, declining to predict whether the investigations might take weeks or months.
The hybrid helicopter, built jointly by Boeing Co. and Textron Inc., uses a pair of swiv el turbo-prop engines on. its wingtips to take off and land like a helicopter and fly like an airplane.
The Marine Corps last month indefinitely postponed a decision on beginning production of the helicopter until the in-depth study of the program, ordered by Cohen, is completed.
Meanwhile, the corps last week began investigating charges contained in an anonymous letter and tape recording that the commander of its only MV-22 squadron had told subordinates to falsify maintenance records on the eight remaining aircraft.
But Quigley said that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday approved a request by the corps for acting Pentagon Inspector General Bob Lieberman to take over the probe of the accusations involving the troubled program from the Marine Corps.

Possibility Probe May Be Expanded

Pentagon officials told Reuters that the request earlier on Wednesday by Gen. James Jones, commandant of the corps, for Lieberman to take over raised the possibility that the probe could be expanded to include whether senior marine officials might have brought undue pressure to make the MV-22 look good.
``All areas of investigation are fair game,'' Quigley told Reuters. ``They (the inspector general's office) will go wherever the facts lead them.''
Marine officials have said privately that Lt. Col. Odin F. Leberman admitted that he sought changes in maintenance records for the MV-22 but that they have no evidence that he was ordered to do so or came under pressure from above.
The Marine Corps grounded the MV-22s after a North Carolina crash on Dec. 11 killed all four crew members. The corps also postponed a decision on whether to go ahead with production of the hybrid helicopter.
Another crash on April 8 during a night training flight in Arizona killed all 19 marines on board an MV-22.
The Marine Corps said last week that there was no evidence that the maintenance records investigation had anything to do with either of the crashes.
``I have complete confidence that the (Marine Corps) inspector general and his staff are conducting a thorough, complete and unbiased investigation into these (maintenance) allegations,'' Jones said in requesting that the Pentagon take over the investigation.
``Nevertheless, I believe that it is important that the investigation is not only independent but perceived as such.''
Marine Corps leaders, including Jones, have repeatedly expressed faith in the safety of the MV-22.
The initial production contract would be worth up to $1 billion for 20 aircraft. But the Marine Corps wants 360 of the aircraft, and the long-term value of production could be $40 billion including sales to the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force Special Operations.




Pentagon takes over MV-22 helicopter investigation

WASHINGTON, USA ( Reuters ) -The Department of Defense inspector general has taken control of the investigation into accusations of falsified maintenance records in the Marine Corps' $40 billion MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft program, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

Two MV-22 crashes last year killed 23 marines, and the corps last week began investigating charges contained in an anonymous letter and tape recording that the commander of its only MV-22 squadron had told subordinates to falsify maintenance records on the corps' eight remaining aircraft.
Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman, said that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday approved a request by the corps for acting Pentagon Inspector General Bob Lieberman to take over the probe of the accusations involving the troubled program from the Marine Corps.
Pentagon officials told Reuters that the request earlier on Wednesday by Gen. James Jones, commandant of the corps, for Lieberman to take over raised the possibility that the probe could be expanded to include whether senior marine officials might have brought undue pressure to make the MV-22 look good.
``All areas of investigation are fair game,'' Quigley told Reuters on Thursday. ``They (the inspector general's office) will go wherever the facts lead them.''
The hybrid helicopter, built jointly by Boeing Co. and Textron Inc. , uses a pair of swivel turbo-prop engines on its wingtips to take off and land like a helicopter and fly like an airplane.
Marine officials have said privately that Lt. Col. Odin F. Leberman admitted that he sought changes in maintenance records for the MV-22 but that they have noevidence that he was ordered to do so or came under pressure from above.

MV-22S GROUNDED

The Marine Corps grounded the MV-22s after a North Carolina crash in December killed all four crew members. The corps also postponed a decision on whether to go ahead with production of the hybrid helicopter by Boeing and the Bell Helicopter division of Textron.
Another crash last summer during a night training flight in Arizona killed all 19 marines on board an MV-22.
The Marine Corps said last week that there was no evidence that the maintenance records investigation had anything to do with either of the crashes.
``I have complete confidence that the (Marine Corps) inspector general and his staff are conducting a thorough, complete and unbiased investigation into these (maintenance) allegations,'' Jones said in requesting that the Pentagon take over the investigation.
``Nevertheless, I believe that it is important that the investigation is not only independent but perceived as such.''
Former Defense Secretary William Cohen last month ordered a panel of experts headed by former Lockheed Martin Corp. chairman Norman Augustine to conduct an in-depth review of the Osprey, including safety, training, engineering and design, and suitability for operations -- and ``to recommend any proposed corrective actions.''
Marine Corps leaders, including Jones, have repeatedly expressed faith in the safety of the MV-22.
The initial production contract would be worth up to $1 billion for 20 aircraft. But the Marine Corps wants 360 of the aircraft, and the long-term value of production could be $40 billion including sales to the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force Special Operations.

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