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Since the United States and coalition partners began its anti-ISIS mission in 2014, the Middle East's skies have become crowded with the very best in modern air power. The air is full of flashy fourth-generation fighters (like the Air Force's F-15s and F-16s and the Navy's F/A-18E/Fs), and newer fifth-generation fighters (like the F-22). But also flying proudly with these other planes is a Marine Corps mainstay generally not considered a fourth-generation platform and unlikely to win any beauty contests—the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II. That plane has, time and again, proven itself a highly effective multirole combat aircraft.

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Just months after conducting its maiden flight with a 20-minute low hover and then demonstrating a speed of 80 knots, the advanced V-280 Valor tilt-rotor prototype has achieved an effective transition to cruise mode, hitting speeds up to 190 knots with its rotors smoothly transitioning between its hover and cruise configurations, according to announcement by Bell Helicopter on Tuesday — a major step forward for the experimental airframe that may end up replacing the UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters in the U.S. Army's fleet.

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