An MV-22B Osprey takes flight to transport Marines to conduct a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel training mission during the Amphibious Squadron 5 and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration exercise aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25) July 16, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery C. Laning)
PARIS AIR SHOW — Bell and Boeing are aiming to increase V-22 mission readiness rates by 10 to 12 percent through removing eight of the 10 wiring interface boxes on the aircraft's nacelles, changing wiring types, and through nacelle structural upgrades, such as latch changes.
"We think the wiring improvements will be huge," Chris Gehler, vice president of Bell’s V-22 Program and deputy program director for the V-22 Bell-Boeing joint venture, said in an interview here.
The fleet’s readiness rate, including both the Marine Corps MV-22 and Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22, has been below 60 percent. U.S. Marine Corps Col. Matthew Kelly, the V-22 joint program manager, said last month that the aircraft were not available as often as the services need them to be. A goal of 80 percent readiness, set by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, is achievable but will take some time yet.
Earlier this year, the program office signed a five-year performance-based logistics contract with Bell and Boeing. Under the contract, both companies are incentivized to keep the aircraft mission ready and are paid accordingly.
There are several ongoing efforts to promote fleet readiness, two of which are the common-configuration readiness and modernization (CCRAM) and the nacelle improvement programs.
CCRAM is the major effort to reduce the number of Marine Corps configurations of the V-22--77--to five, thus achieving a significant reduction in life cycle costs for the aircraft. While new MV-22s rolling off the production line are Block C, CCRAM will bring 129 MV-22 Block Bs, built between 5 and 15 years ago, up to the Block C configuration.
Bell and Boeing plan to have the first nacelle improvement kit available for CCRAM by the first quarter of calendar year 2021--the last quarter of fiscal 2020.
The Marines are nearing the end of their buy of 360 aircraft, while AFSOC has received 52 of 56 required aircraft. The U.S. Naval Air Command (NAVAIR) begins procurement of 48 CMV-22s in the current fiscal year.
The Air Force will do its own nacelle improvement work for the CV-22s at Hurlburt Field in Florida.
"We're very focused on CV-22 readiness," Gehler said. "Because the fleet is so small, it's an opportunity for Bell and Boeing to partner with AFSOC and NAVAIR to improve CV-22 readiness quickly."
Improving readiness rates could bolster foreign sales of the V-22, which is the only aircraft capable of delivering to aircraft carriers replacements for the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine for the naval version of the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter. Japan is the first foreign buyer of the V-22 and plans to buy 17, while Israel and the United Kingdom have also shown interest. Bell believes that other NATO blue water countries with F-35s are also potential customers for the V-22 because of its ability to deliver F135 engines to aircraft carriers.