On June 6, 2012, a lone CV-22 from Canon Air Force base in New Mexico—home of the 27th Special Operations Wing—flew a 2,600-nm round trip lasting more than 11 hours to USS Wyoming (SSBN-742, an Ohio class submarine), to simulate a medical evacuation. The aircraft appeared over the submarine within 15 seconds of the allotted time and a litter was lowered from around 150 feet to simulate the extraction of an injured crewman.
This is another “proof of concept” notch on the gun barrel of the V-22 program and will do no harm in extending the attractiveness of the Osprey among hard-to persuade international customers. But the offer is improving as the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22s and Air Force AFSOC CV-22s continue to rack up the hours—now at 150,000 flight hours globally. USMC has 12 squadrons fielded with two more for the Air Force (152 Ospreys verses 26). Although the Bell-Boeing deal with the U.S. government for a five-year Multi-Year from 2008 is ending, USMC Col. Greg Masiello, V-22 program manager, said that “favorable language from the House and Senate” were being linked to a further Multi-Year II proposal for an additional 98 aircraft. The total program requirement is for 360 MV-22s for the USMC, 50 CV-22s for the Air Force and, although not backed by any budget, a further 48 MV-22s for the U.S. Navy.
The MV-22 has recently conducted qualification trials with the USS Bush, with a mission recently onboard the USS Lincoln to be followed by a full tour onboard the USS Truman. The global operational plan has spread as well, with the current deployment to Okinawa being followed in 2013 to USAF Mildenhall in the UK and tours with the US presidential fleet, HMX-1.
Of the AFSOC CV-22 operations, Col. Masiello would only say that the Air Force had flown around 1,256 combat hours, which was direct action against time-sensitive target missions, both inside and outside of Afghanistan. Said Masiello: “They aren’t necessarily getting credit for stuff behind the scenes.”
So why is the V-22 becoming more appealing to international buyers? The need to invest in multi-mission capable fleets may play into Bell-Boeing’s hands here. Future applications see the aircraft being used in roles that include: aerial and ground refueling; rescue and medevac; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); Command & Control; and carrier and vertical onboard delivery (which would be increasingly interested to navy’s operating carriers without “cat and trap,” such as the two new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy). In terms of a Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) aircraft, trials have already shown that the V-22 can lift up to 4,000 lbs more that the traditional aircraft in this role. Col. Masiello said that carrier commanders could now think in terms of 100s of miles rather than 10s in terms of how and where this aircraft type could range. Masiello would only disclose that his team is “working with multiple nations with paper going back and forth,” although he did say that aircraft production time had been identified during the 2015-2019 period.
Related: Procurement News