The Bell/Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor has come a long way since the early days when cost overruns, design problems and two back-to-back fatal accidents in 2000 nearly cancelled the program on several occasions. The bugs were worked out long ago and the vertical short/takeoff and landing (V/STOL)-capable V-22 is seeing a lot of action these days. Over the last two years, the V-22 has accumulated nearly 100,000 hours of flight time in harsh environments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The dispatch reliability rate is climbing, but still needs improvement, according to military leaders. The MV-22 mission readiness hovers between 62 percent and 65 percent, according to the U.S. Marine Corps. The CV-22 has an average deployed mission-capable rate (MCR) of 76.4 percent, and a MCR of 55.3 percent fleet-wide in FY 2010, according to Air Force Special Operations (AF-SOC) Command. The cannibalization (CANN) rate is 4.8. Which means that for every 100 hours flown, the CV-22 has to use parts taken from other aircraft 4.8 times.
“The CV-22 has been highly reliable and effective in combat,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew Glover, 8th Special Operations Squadron director of operations. “We have received positive feedback from combat leaders at all levels.”
Dispatch reliability and performance will likely improve with Block C MV-22s for the Marines and CV-22s for AF-SOC, which are slated for delivery to customers in late 2011 and early 2012.
The MV-22 Block C models will incorporate weather radar for the MV-22 only, an improved environmental control system for CV-22 and MV-22, troop commander situational awareness display for MV-22, upgraded standby flight instrument and GPS repeater for MV-22 and CV-22, and additional chaff/flare capability for the MV-22.
Block C development first began in 2006 when Bell/Boeing was awarded a $105-million Block C production contract modification to produce 91 MV-22s and 21 CV-22s in the configuration. In May 2010, the Air Force announced plans to retrofit the CV-22s with the Block C design.
The ongoing goal for the Air Force and Marines is improving operational readiness of the V-22. “My top three initiatives are simple: availability, affordability and execution,” said V-22 Program Manager Col. Greg Masiello.
The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), which controls all information regarding design changes and enhancements to the V-22, said it wants to increase the speed of the MV-22 from 250 knots to 270 knots and give the aircraft higher altitude capability. Average range of the MV-22B is around 325 nautical miles.
But the military has greater concerns than enhancing the V-22. The Obama Administration’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform suggested that the MV-22 program be scrapped, which, if approved, would likely halt all deliveries of the Block C models. But no decision had been made as of this writing.
At present, 135 V-22s are in service supporting the Marines and AF-SOC. The Air Force operates 15 CV-22s. Sixteen were delivered, but one CV-22 was lost in combat April 9, 2010 near Qalat, Afghanistan, killing three military members and one civilian. The U.S. military first deployed the V-22 in October 2007, in Iraq’s western Al Anbar province.
Twenty V-22s were delivered in 2009 and 25 deliveries were slated for 2010. In total, the Marines and Air Force ordered 360 MV-22s and 50 V-22s. The U.S. Navy is considered 48 V-22s to replace the Grumman C-2A Greyhound carrier on-board delivery (COD) aircraft.
With two massive three-bladed propellers, the V-22 can transport 24 combat troops or 20,000 pounds of internal or up to 15,000 pounds of external cargo, according to a fact sheet.
Initially dubbed the Bell/Boeing Vertol JVK, the V-22 Osprey is manufactured by Bell Helicopter and Boeing Rotorcraft Systems. Bell is responsible for the wing, transmissions, empennage, rotor systems and engine installation while Boeing is accountable for the fuselage, and all subsystems, digital avionics and fly-by-wire flight-control systems.