On July 21, 2020, LEGO announced that the upcoming LEGO Technic V-22 Osprey had been cancelled. Set number 42113 was an officially licensed model of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft used by the US Navy, Marines, Air Force and Japanese Self-Defense Forces.
Despite being just 10 days away from its August 1 release date, LEGO pulled the Osprey from its website and announced that shipments of the new set would not go out to retailers. In their official statement, LEGO said:
The LEGO Technic Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey was designed to highlight the important role the aircraft plays in search and rescue efforts. While the set clearly depicts how a rescue version of the plane might look, the aircraft is only used by the military. We have a long-standing policy not to create sets which feature real military vehicles, so it has been decided not to proceed with the launch of this product. We appreciate that some fans who were looking forward to this set may be disappointed, but we believe it's important to ensure that we uphold our brand values.
LEGO's policy of not making sets based on military vehicles goes back to its very beginning. In fact, the original LEGO brick colors in the 1950s didn't even include grey because LEGO feared that they could be used to make military vehicles like tanks.
Orange trim wasn't enough to distance the V-22 from its military use (LEGO)
In recent years, LEGO has limited the scope of their military restriction to modern military vehicles. This allowed them to create sets based on historic military vehicles like the WWI-era Sopwith Camel biplane and Fokker Dr.1 triplane.
Licensed IPs like Indiana Jones and Star Wars have also allowed LEGO to make sets with military themes that weren't modern or real. Indiana Jones set number 7198 included an armed Pilatus P-2 with Luftwaffe markings from The Last Crusade and set number 7683 featured the fictional Nazi flying wing bomber from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Under the Star Wars license, LEGO has created molds for fictional blasters that come from the galaxy far, far away.
However, while LEGO has not released a licensed modern military set, it has released some that bear striking resemblances to modern military vehicles. LEGO Creator 3-in-1 sets have featured vehicles that look remarkably like the AH-64 Apache (31023), F-14 Tomcat (4953), Rafale M (5892), F-35 Lightning II (31039) and even the V-22 (31020). LEGO City set number 60021 City Cargo Heliplane is a dedicated set that also bears a striking resemblance to the V-22. The main difference between the aforementioned sets and the cancelled V-22 seems to be the official licensing by Bell and Boeing, who make the real-life aircraft.
It looks like a V-22, but it isn't (LEGO)
In July, the German Peace Society issued a warning against LEGO releasing the licensed V-22. Despite rebranding of the aircraft in the set to make it a search and rescue aircraft, the German Peace Society released a statement saying:
On 1. August 2020 LEGO® plans to release its first ever military set while internal corporate value documents forbid the production of current military vehicles. The German DFG-VK also criticises the license placed on the set. With every buy, customers help to finance arms companies.
Despite the set being ready for release with advertisements and stock ready to go, LEGO has marked all packaged sets of the V-22 for return to circulation. While LEGO stores will never receive the set, some smaller retailers did receive their first orders early and buyers have been quick to scoop up the rare sets. New Zealand seems to have received the most shipments as Ebay listings for the V-22 all ship from New Zealand and are selling for well over $1,000. Some retailers are even returning their stock to LEGO rather than selling them.
While this turn of events has been a major disappointment for LEGO fans, the fact that the set got so close to release can be seen as a sign of things to come. While the V-22 is used exclusively by armed forces, it's not unreasonable to think that military aircraft with civilian variants like the C-130 Hercules or the CH-47 Chinook might be turned into licensed LEGO sets in the future.
Commercials were filmed and ready. Note the "Rescue" markings. (LEGO)
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