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      07-20-2006, 03:17 PM   #10

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The V-22 Osprey, part airplane, part helicopter, after its public debut Tuesday at the International Air Show in Farnborough, England.

Rogan Macdonald for The New York Times

The Long Flight of the Osprey
FARNBOROUGH, England, July 18 — For its debut at the international air show, the V-22 Osprey danced in the sky. It flew straight up, then forward. It twirled and dove down. It flew sideways and even took a bow in midair.

The first squadron of V-22’s is scheduled to be deployed next fall and, at the moment, the Marines have been promised 360 of these planes. At a cost of about $70 million each — the total program cost is $49 billion — the Osprey is one of the Marines’ most expensive weapons. The Marines have staked their future on this craft, and have about 40 flying today at various American bases, but none overseas or in combat.

Bell Helicopter and Boeing are hoping to drum up foreign sales to keep the Osprey’s costs down, and perhaps extend its life. To that end, the company sponsored a lavish dinner during the show at Kensington Palace, the former home of Princess Diana, to woo prospective international clients.

The Marine Corps had made a big show of announcing it would fly two Ospreys over the Atlantic to arrive before the show — for the first time — to demonstrate its long-range capability. But, on the way over, one of the planes developed engine problems in bad weather and made an unplanned landing in Iceland, where a $2 million engine was replaced before it could continue on its way.

Gen. Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, said in a news conference Monday that the craft was so safe that he had taken his wife up in an Osprey.

“It will be faster, more agile and it will be safer than any craft today,” the general said. “Whether it is earthquakes, flood relief or on a mission, it can take us anywhere in the world without a permission slip.”