V-22 Osprey

V-22 Osprey – Onward and Upward

The Boeing/Bell Helicopter V-22 Osprey represents a classic contribution to the “transformation” concept which is driving the warfighting plans of the Navy and Naval Aviation for the near and distant future. The tilt-rotor aircraft promises to be an ideal platform for expeditionary maneuver warfare and the acute focus on the continuing War on Terrorism. Whether taking off from a confined area in the jungle on a medevac mission, launching from an LHA in heavy seas to support an amphibious assault, or hurrying half-way around the world for an insertion/ extraction mission to rescue citizens from an embassy under seige, the Osprey is well up to the task. The V-22 will be a critical element in a mobile force capable of deploying virtually anywhere on the globe on short notice.

“Our forces in the next century must be agile, lethal, readily deployable and require a minimum of logistical support,” said President George W. Bush in September 2000. The Osprey was built with these needs in mind.

Around the world from 1990 to 2002 U.S. military forces responded to more than 30 emergency evacuations of personnel, approximately 20 peace/relief operations and about 20 “shows of force.” The V-22 would certainly be involved in these actions in the years ahead.

Said secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in May 2002, “We need rapidly deployable…forces capable of…striking adversaries swiftly and with devastating effect.”

The V-22 is the answer to the U.S. Marine Corps’ urgent requirement to replace its aging CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters with a new technology, more capable aircraft. The Marine version of the aircraft is designated the MV-22. The Special Operation Command (Joint) will operate the CV-22 version for its variety of special missions. The Navy will employ the HV-22 version for combat search and rescue (CSAR) and logisitics missions and possibly, COD and tanker duty.

In the post 9-11 world the V-22 is especially relevant. It is a unique, multi-mission platform with speed, range, survivability and payload capabilities that dramatically exceed those of legacy helicopters. Like a gifted, ambidextrous athlete who excels in a variety of sports, the Osprey can perform many missions with equal skill and effectiveness.

It is flown by a crew of four: pilot, copilot, and two crew chiefs (the minimum crew is three with the two pilots and a single crew chief). The Osprey’s ability to fly great distances at twice the speed of legacy helicopters, carrying three times the payload and traveling about five times the range, makes it a force multiplier. It can deliver troops and cargo with alacrity and/or retrieve beleaguered personnel from nearly inaccessible areas. It is ideal for insertion/extraction missions. Depending on the scenario, a half dozen V-22s can complete a mission that heretofore required up to twice as many CH-46s. It can operate up to 28,000 feet of altitude and at airspeeds in excess of 300 knots. Launching from the northeast U.S., for example, aided by in-flight refueling, it can reach Iraq in 26 hours, if required.

It’s survivability characteristics are excellent. As a turboprop compared to a jet and rotorary wing aircraft, the V-22 has a relatively small footprint due to its “cooler” IR (infrared) signature. Its speed, range and comparatively quiet operations contribute to its survivability.

The aircraft features a composite/aluminum airframe, triple redundant fly-by-wire flight controls and is powered by reliable Rolls RoyceAE1107C engines. It operates from ships, land bases or remote, unprepared fields in adverse weather. It has a rear loading ramp, a digital glass cockpit and a cabin 24 feet long, six feet high and six feet wide. It can transport 24 combat ready troops or nearly 5,000 pounds of cargo. For logistic/medevac missions it has single and dual-point external cargo hooks, an advanced cargo handling system that can accommodate 12 litters, an aerial refueling probe, rescue hoist and on-board oxygen generating system. The avionics package includes dual (1553B) data busses, dual 64-bit mission computers, night vision goggle compatibility with multi-function displays, inertial navigation capability, GPS, VOR/ILS/marker beacon for navigation, radar altimeter, SATCOM, FLIR and a digital color moving map.

As LTGEN Mike Hough, the Marine Corps’ Deputy Commandant for Aviation, put it, “The V-22 is a great new story.” Tom MacDonald, theOsprey’s Chief Test Pilot (who was presented the Iven C. Kincheloe Award by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots for his work with the Osprey) stated, the V-22 has “incredible, multi-mission capability.”

The aircraft was grounded in December 2000 following the second of two class A mishaps. Hydraulic related problems, which led to a re-design of the nacelles, along with some misunderstanding of the vortex ring state phenomenon were areas of focus.

Painstaking review by a Blue Ribbon panel involving, among other organizations, NAVAIRSYSCOM, the Boeing/ Bell Helicopter team, supporting contractors, NASA Ames, NTSB, GAO, the Inspector General – and with Congressional and DoD oversight, followed.

Substantial problems at the fleet and program level were identified. The program was “schedule driven” rather than “event driven,” which is now the case.

The corrective action took intensive labor and testing for 18 months, until the aircraft was cleared for flight. A vigorous inspection cycle helped confirm the design of the V-22 was sound.

The Osprey resumed flying in May 2002 and by early December 2003 it had surpassed 1,000 flight hours. It went through exhaustive developmental testing highlighted by two at-sea periods and a battery of high rate of descent tests that clearly defined the airplane’s robust operating envelope. It completed Phase I icing tests in Nova Scotia and is progressing steadily toward the operational evaluation stage.

The program received important indications of confidence from DoD leadership during the two most recent defense acquisitions boards held at the Pentagon. In the coming months, the program will be focusing on other facets of developmental testing. VMX-22, the tiltrotor test and evaluation squadron based at MCAS New River, North Carolina, is preparing for the Osprey’s operational evaluation later in FY05 . Fleet introduction of the aircraft is expected in FY 06. The V-22 Program Manager is COL Craig Olson, USAF.

ANSER, Inc., a not for profit public research institute, conducted a study bilities and operational benefits of the V-22 against current real-world threats, both foreign and domestic. The study was designed to examine the relevance of the V-22 in a post 9/11 world. Key findings reflected that the V-22’s speed, range, survivability and payload capabilities provided significant operational benefits, including:

* moving forces into any operational theater 40 to 70% faster than the current fleet;

* providing reduced operational footprints and improved force protection;

* capability to deliver a 600-man force deep inland in one to two days (versus two to six) and to reinforce that 600-man force within hours (versus half a day);

* accelerating strike operations by several days while increasing target coverage or basing options by a factor of 10 in addition to cutting the number of “failure nodes” by 40 to 70%; and dramatically reducing the number of refueling operations .

Among the scenarios ANSER examined were three relating to the War on Terrorism – two in Southwest Asia, one in Southeastern Pacific and one in Miami, Florida. Each involved actions designed to prevent or respond to terrorist acts directed against U.S. interests. The scenarios were considered to be operationally pertinent and up to date although rules of engagement varied. The scenarios involved the use of multiple airborne assets including inflight refueling tankers.The study considered all foreseeable contingencies that accompany high pressure operations where time and timing are vital to success.

The Afghanistan event entailed a preemptive strike and ship-based air support. In one case, the American embassy was under siege. In Miami, forces responded to a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) attack.

The analysis of each scenario was performed twice: once using current forces without V-22s and second, with the Osprey. Results were compared with respect to various measures including responsiveness, effectiveness, risk, force protection and support needs.

DoD operators, planners and staffers were asked to comment on the findings periodically throughout the study. This was done primarily to ensure the accuracy of the study and acceptability of assumptions, not to solicit DoD endorsement.

Clearly, the technology imbedded in the V-22 Osprey represents a huge and unique leap forward for airborne combat operations now and for those anticipated in the future. In the years ahead, planners anticipate the Osprey performing command and control and AEW/EW missions. Reiterating LTGEN Hough’s declaration, “The V-22 is a great new story.”

Wings of Gold thanks MAJ Gregg Skinner, USMC, and Ward Carroll, NAVAIRSYSCOM PAO, for their assistance on this article.

Copyright Association of Naval Aviation Winter 2003

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