It’s pretty crazy to think that a huge aircraft with an 85-foot wingspan is capable of folding itself up to reduce the amount of space it occupies on a massive ship. Yet, the V-22 Osprey does just that. This video is a little dated—it was taken in 2010 at Nellis Airforce Base in Las Vegas, NV—but it’s still pretty incredible.
[Full disclosure: I was not aware that aircraft folded like this. It makes sense given the limited amount of space on a carrier, I just never really thought about it. My military experience is limited to a day spent shadowing a cadet at West Point for an article and a few tours of older boats. This is awesome.]
The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft capable of carrying 24 combat troops, 20,000 pounds of internal cargo or 15,000 pounds of external cargo. It takes off like a helicopter, but flies forward like a plane. It’s also twice as fast as a helicopter with two Rolls Royce AE1107C turboshaft engines and three blades per hub. In fact, it has a max speed of 316 mph. It’s 57’ feet long and weighs in at 33, 140 pounds.
The goal when creating this beast was to capture the functionality of a helicopter, and combine it with the long-range, high-speed capabilities of a turboprop plane. It was introduced in 2007 and there are plans for 458 total units by the end of production with over 216 already built. The final amount includes 360 for the Marines, 48 for the Navy, and 50 for the Air Force. Toys for everyone.
Because it’s capable of folding itself up Transformer-style and considering the tilt-rotor technology, it’s a given that the Osprey has had design issues. First of all, it’s been wildly expensive. In 1986, the budget was $2.5 billion but within two years it had jumped to $30 billion. There has also been some questionable safety and reliability issues along the way. But, if you can put that all aside and just consider the technical feats that allow for this type of machinery to be built, it’s pretty impressive.