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Troubles Deepen for 'Military Vehicle of Future'


The Osprey is a military aircraft that is supposed to take off like a helicopter and fly like a plane and that lately hasn't been doing much of either. Yesterday, a federal indictment helped to explain why. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO reporting:

Supporters of the V-22 Osprey have called it the military vehicle of the future. It has the power of an airplane and the maneuverability of a helicopter. It has also had a string of setbacks, ranging from fatal crashes to a total shutdown of the US Marine Corps' Osprey fleet in 2003. Yesterday afternoon, the company that's alleged to have caused that shutdown was indicted in Philadelphia, along with four of its employees. The company is Anco-Tech. And the indictment accuses them of knowingly manufacturing faulty titanium tubing for the Osprey. The company then sold those tubes to Boeing, which built the aircraft. Patrick Meehan is the US attorney for eastern Pennsylvania.

Mr. PATRICK MEEHAN (Attorney): Tests were skipped, protocols were ignored, inspection procedures weren't followed, documentation was incomplete or falsified. And what was really most concerning was the conduct didn't seem just to be tolerated but actually sanctioned and condoned by the company.

SHAPIRO: Investigators looking into Anco-Tech were particularly interested in whether tubes that the company manufactured could have caused an Osprey crash that killed four Marines in North Carolina in 2000. Inspectors concluded that there was no connection. Still, Meehan says the faulty parts that Anco-Tech knowingly sold jeopardized the lives of service members and the shutdown of the fleet in 2003 had major repercussions.

Mr. MEEHAN: If it's grounded for a period of time because somebody failed to certify the appropriate parts, and it becomes another notch in the arguments against the V-22, it can have a real impact.

SHAPIRO: Messages left for Anco-Tech were not returned in time for this broadcast. If convicted on all counts, the company's vice president could face 200 years in prison and Anco-Tech may be fined more than $7 million.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.