A unique-looking aircraft that is both a helicopter and an aeroplane will make a very rare appearance in the UK when it takes part in the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford this summer.
Having stolen the show at the Air Tattoo 2006 where it marked its UK flying display debut, the US Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey the world's first tilt-rotor aircraft will be making a welcome return to Fairford on July 7-8.
A cross between a helicopter and a fixed-wing aeroplane, the Osprey's rotor blades can tilt mid-air enabling it to take off vertically and then reconfigure to fly like an aeroplane. Not only does this allow it to reach speeds twice as fast as a helicopter but it also enables it to carry heavier payloads and fly at higher altitudes.
In 2007, the aircraft was deployed operationally for the first time, supporting routine cargo and troop movements in Iraq. Two years later, the aircraft performed its first offensive combat mission, Operation Cobra's Anger, transporting US Marines and Afghan troops into Helmand Province to disrupt the Taliban's communications and supply lines. In 2010, Ospreys performed their first humanitarian mission, operating in Haiti as part of Operation Unified Response following an earthquake in the country.
The US Marine Corps plans to send two MV-22Bs, one for the flying display and the other for the static park.
An Air Tattoo spokesman said few other modern aircraft have been so revolutionary in terms of their design and operational capability. He added: In musical terms, adding the Osprey to the flying display is a bit like Glastonbury adding Jay-Z to the bill it's sassy, has lots of good moves and looks downright cool.
This year's Air Tattoo will see organisers join with the RAF to stage special aerial tributes celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Special Air Tattoo 'Earlybird' tickets, priced £34, are available until the end of March from airtattoo.com or by calling 0800 107 1940. All accompanied under-16s go free. Free parking.