March 12, 2006 It’s been a long road for the Osprey but the aircraft first conceived several decades ago as being uniquely suitable for a wide range of military applications is finally being readied for the battlefront. The first combat-configured CV-22 Osprey left Bell Helicopter in Texas earlier this month and can expected to see action in Iraq and Afghanistan within months, most likely in transporting special operations teams and their gear into and out of action. The Osprey CV-22 converts between airplane and helicopter modes and is twice as fast as any previous VTOL aircraft, but also has significantly enhanced survivability and five times the range, offering operational flexibility beyond its most obvious in delivering specialist military capability to the exact point it is required and retrieving it afterwards.
With the planned delivery of the first Block 10 CV-22 aircraft to Air Force Special Operations Command and the delivery of the first Block B version of the V-22 Osprey to the U.S. Marine Corps in January, the Bell Boeing V-22 is in Full Rate Production. Both the Block B and Block 10 aircraft have software upgrades, reliability and maintainability improvements over existing V-22 aircraft.
Currently there are some 50 V-22 aircraft on flight status throughout the United States. They are in service at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, MCAS New River, North Carolina, Edwards AFB, California as well as at the Bell Boeing V-22 manufacturing center in Amarillo, Texas.
The V-22 program was approved for full rate production (FRP) in September 2005, after the operational evaluation verified that the Osprey had achieved all the “key performance parameters” identified by the Marine Corps as essential to its mission. Recommendations from that OPEVAL validated the program’s roadmap for follow-on test and evaluation, to add capabilities as the aircraft progresses toward its deployment date.
With FRP, the U.S. Government has authorized Bell and Boeing to increase current low-rate production up to 48 aircraft per year. The FRP decision by the Defense Acquisition Board followed the successful completion of extensive Operational Evaluation testing, conducted last summer by the USMC.
Secretary of the Navy Dr. Donald C. Winter logged his first flight hour aboard an MV-22 Osprey at MCAS New River, (Jan. 9 2006). Winter made the flight with VMX-22, the Marine Corps squadron that conducted the successful operational evaluation of the tiltrotor aircraft last summer. VMX-22 shares a flight line with VMMT-204, the training squadron that is preparing Marine aviators for the start of Osprey combat operations in late 2007.
“This aircraft proves that transformation is more than just a buzzword,” Winter said. “The combination of range, speed and operational flexibility the Osprey provides is going to change all the rules for how our Marines engage the enemy. As central as these capabilities are to our Sea Strike concept of future operations, I wanted to come see it for myself.”
“With twice the speed, three to five times the range, and the ability to carry twice as many Marines, the Osprey will permit joint force commanders to execute large Marine Air Ground Task Force operations in a single period of darkness,” said Col. Bill Taylor, V-22 joint program manager.
Under the current program of record, the Marine Corps will purchase 360 MV-22s for missions including amphibious assault, ship-to-objective maneuvers and sustained operations ashore. The Navy is also slated to get 48 MV-22s, which could be used for fleet logistic support and search and rescue.
The Air Force Special Operations Command will acquire 50 CV-22 variants, with enhanced capabilities tailored for their unique mission requirements. The CV-22 will reach initial operational capability in 2009, while the Marines’ variant will be ready to deploy in late 2007. The first operational Marine Osprey squadron, VMM-263, will stand up at New River in March, with many of its pilots going through training now at VMMT-204.
The revolutionary tiltrotor technology combines fixed-wing airplane and vertical lift capabilities into one efficient and extremely capable aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like an airplane, providing military customers with significant improvements in combat capabilities - including speeds and range two to three times more than that of conventional helicopters, as well as increased payloads, survivability and reliability.