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In reference to your editorial, "Osprey should be shot down," in The Buffalo News Nov. 22: What the General Accounting Office had to say about beginning production of the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft at the same time that it is being tested is based on old information.

Because the actual production effort has been delayed for up to two years, the development and production phases of the V-22 are nearly concurrent. Over 80 percent of the V-22 development and qualification tests are complete and by the time advanced procurement funds are released next month, 70 percent of the test flights will have been flown.

Your editorial also stated that the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft is not needed, even if it does work, and the money appropriated by Congress was politics winning out. It's interesting to note that only the defense secretary is against the Osprey, not because of its capabilities, but because of its cost. The secretary says that he can save money by moving troops to beaches and rescuing hostages or downed pilots using 20-year-old-technology helicopters.

But what he isn't saying is that he still needs money to buy and to modify these older helicopters. Even the Pentagon's own research institute said that the Osprey is cheaper to buy, operate and maintain over the life of the system than the helicopter alternatives. In addition, the V-22 still offers greater capabilities.

Speaking for the Osprey's manufacturers, we are confident that the V-22 is ready for production go-ahead. We are concerned, however, that any further delays in getting on with the Osprey's production will increase program costs and postpone the availability of a sorely needed Marine, Navy and Air Force capability.

As a final response to whether the Osprey is needed or not, I believe a statement delivered earlier this year by General John R. Daily, now assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, in response to a question posed during a congressional hearing is worth sharing. When asked what the V-22 means to the Marines who actually carry out that mission, Daily succinctly replied, "I think it means success."

TERRY ARNOLD Manager, V-22 CommunicationsBell Helicopter Textron Inc.Fort Worth, Texas

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