Military

V-22 Fleet Passes Flight Hour Milestone, Still Plagued With Readiness Issues

By S.L. Fuller, Rich Abott | November 16, 2017

150811-N-RU971-449 NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS (Aug. 11, 2015) – An MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced), flies through the air over the Northern Mariana Islands en route to pick up distinguished visitors from Palau. VMM 265 is currently embarked with Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cameron McCulloch/Released)

U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cameron McCulloch

The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey global fleet has surpassed 400,000 flight hours, the manufacturers said yesterday. But the fleet’s readiness rate is still a major concern for the U.S. Marine Corps.

In February, Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said the service was dealing with 77 different MV-22 variants, which, among other items, increases maintenance complexity.

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“That makes it hard to get the right parts for it,” Davis said. “It makes it hard to maintain for our Marines and Air Force personnel ... Right now you’ve got a Marine going out with a computer and ... it could be one of 77 different combinations of parts and repair protocols, which is really not good.”

To combat that figure, the Marine Corps launched the Common Configuration Reliability and Maintainability Initiative (CCRaM). This involves the reconfiguring the aircraft to a common variant by the Marine Corps and the manufacturers.

Marine Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, deputy commandant for aviation, reaffirmed the Osprey’s low readiness rate last week during a House Armed Services Readiness subcommittee hearing on aviation readiness.

Rudder noted that the MV-22 CCRaM program is a “critical readiness initiative” needed to restore the aircraft fleet and aircrew to a congressionally mandated T 2.0 ready force. Ready basic aircraft (RBA) rates for the MV-22, he continued, are currently at 48%, “which is unacceptable.”

He acknowledged the findings of an Independent Range Review (IRR) of the MV-22 program, which found the high demand for the tiltrotor required on-the-fly modification as they came off the production line. This led to the 77 different configurations of the aircraft hurried to combat areas. CCRaM is needed to restore and sustain 34 additional RBA among the existing fleet.

“To this point, a seven-year, multi-year procurement contract for V-22 allows us to capitalize on savings and simultaneously support the CCRAM initiative,” Rudder told the subcommittee.

The fiscal year 2018 NDAA conference bill agreed with this point and authorized multiyear procurement authorities for the V-22.

The 400,000-flight-hour milestone was met by the combined CV-22 (operated by the U.S. Air Force) and MV-22 fleet of tiltrotors. The Osprey has been in service since 2007, starting with the Marine Corps; the Air Force Special Operations Command followed with its fielding in 2009.

“The versatile V-22 Osprey is in demand and indispensable among commanders worldwide,” said Kristin Houston, VP of Boeing tiltrotor programs and deputy director of the Bell Boeing V-22 program. “In order to improve readiness for our servicemen and women, we are significantly investing for the long-term through modifications and upgrades to our V-22 factory in Philadelphia. Together with Bell Helicopter, we are proud of achieving this flight hour milestone. Our strategic alliance enables the continued success of this program.”

Bell said it has taken lessons learned from the V-22 and applied them to its V-280 Valor prototype. Currently progressing toward its first flight, the V-280 is Bell’s offering in the U.S. Army-led Future Vertical Lift program.

Defense Daily, an R&WI sister publication, contributed to this article.

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