The Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey is an American multi-mission, military, tiltrotor aircraft with both a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft.
The V-22 originated from the United States Department of Defense Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental (JVX) aircraft program started in 1981. The team of Bell Helicopter, and Boeing Helicopters was awarded a development contract in 1983 for the tiltrotor aircraft. The Bell Boeing team jointly produce the aircraft. The V-22 first flew in 1989, and began flight testing and design alterations; the complexity and difficulties of being the first tiltrotor intended for military service in the world led to many years of development.
The United States Marine Corps began crew training for the Osprey in 2000, and fielded it in 2007; it is supplementing and will eventually replace their CH-46 Sea Knights. The Osprey's other operator, the U.S. Air Force fielded their version of the tiltrotor in 2009. Since entering service with the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force, the Osprey has been deployed for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The failure of the Iran hostage rescue mission in 1980 demonstrated to the United States military a need for "a new type of aircraft, that could not only take off and land vertically but also could carry combat troops, and do so at speed." The U.S. Department of Defense began the Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental (JVX) aircraft program in 1981, under U.S. Army leadership. The U.S. Navy/Marine Corps was given the lead in 1983. The JVX combined requirements from the Marine Corps, Air Force, Army and Navy. A request for proposals (RFP) was issued in December 1982 for JVX preliminary design work. Interest in the program was expressed by Aérospatiale, Bell Helicopter, Boeing Vertol, Grumman, Lockheed, and Westland. The DoD pushed for contractors to form teams. Bell partnered with Boeing Vertol. The Bell Boeing team submitted a proposal for a enlarged version of the Bell XV-15 prototype on 17 February 1983. This was the only proposal received and a preliminary design contract was awarded on 26 April 1983.
The JVX aircraft was designated V-22 Osprey on 15 January 1985; by that March the first six prototypes were being produced, and Boeing Vertol was expanded to deal with the project workload. Work has been split evenly between Bell and Boeing. Bell Helicopter manufactures and integrates the wing, nacelles, rotors, drive system, tail surfaces, and aft ramp, as well as integrates the Rolls-Royce engines and performs final assembly. Boeing Helicopters manufactures and integrates the fuselage, cockpit, avionics, and flight controls. The USMC variant of the Osprey received the MV-22 designation and the Air Force variant received CV-22; reversed from normal procedure to prevent Marine Ospreys from having a conflicting designation with aircraft carriers (CV). Full-scale development of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft began in 1986. On 3 May 1986 the Bell-Boeing partnership was awarded a $1.714 billion contract for V-22 aircraft by the Navy. At this point all four U.S. military services had acquisition plans for V-22 versions.
The first V-22 was rolled out with significant media attention in May 1988 The project suffered several blows. That year, the Army left the program, citing a need to focus its budget on more immediate aviation programs. The project faced opposition in the Senate in 1989, surviving two votes that both could have resulted in cancellation. Despite the Senate's decision, the Department of Defense instructed the Navy not to spend more money on the Osprey. When the V-22's projected development budget greatly increased in 1988, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney tried to zero out its funding from 1989 to 1992. He was eventually overruled by Congress, which provided unrequested funding for the program. Multiple studies of alternative aircraft found the V-22 provided more capability and combat effectiveness with similar operating costs as the alternatives. The Clinton Administration was supportive of the V-22 and helped the program attain funding.
Flight testing and design changes
The first of six MV-22 prototypes first flew on 19 March 1989 in the helicopter mode, and on 14 September 1989 as a fixed-wing plane. The third and fourth prototypes successfully completed the Osprey's first Sea Trials on the USS Wasp in December 1990. The fourth and fifth prototypes crashed in 1991-92. From October 1992 until April 1993, Bell and Boeing redesigned the V-22 to reduce empty weight, simplify manufacture and reduce production costs. This redesigned version became the V-22B model. V-22 flights resumed in June 1993 after safety improvements were incorporated in the prototypes. Bell Boeing was awarded a contract for the engineering manufacturing development (EMD) phase in June 1994. The prototypes also received changes to better match the B-model configuration. Flight testing at the stage focused on expanding the flight envelope, measuring flight loads, and supporting the EMD redesign. This and further flight testing with the early V-22s continued into 1997.
Flight testing of four full-scale development V-22s began in early 1997 when the first pre-production V-22 was delivered to the Naval Air Warfare Test Center, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. The first EMD flight took place on 5 February 1997. Testing fell behind schedule. The first of four low rate initial production aircraft, ordered on 28 April 1997, was delivered on 27 May 1999. Osprey number 10 completed the program's second Sea Trials, this time from the USS Saipan in January 1999. During external load testing in April 1999, Boeing used a V-22 to lift and transport the M777 howitzer. In 2000, Boeing announced that the V-22 would be fitted with a nose-mounted GAU-19 gatling gun. The gun was to provide defensive firepower in high threat environments. The nose gun project was canceled, leading to criticism by retired Commandant James L. Jones, who was not satisfied with the V-22 armament. A remote-controlled, belly-mounted, Minigun turret was later installed on some of the first V-22s sent to the War in Afghanistan in 2009.
In 2000, there were two further fatal crashes, killing a total of 19 Marines, and the aircraft was again grounded while the cause of these crashes was investigated and various parts were redesigned. The V-22 completed its final operational evaluation in June 2005. The evaluation was deemed successful; events included long range deployments, high altitude, desert and shipboard operations. The problems identified in various accidents had been addressed.
The V-22's development process has been long and controversial, partly due to its large cost increases. The V-22's development budget was first planned for $2.5 billion in 1986, then increased to a projected $30 billion in 1988. As of 2008, $27 billion have been spent on the Osprey program and another $27.2 billion will be required to complete planned production numbers by the end of the program.
The V-22 squadron's former commander at Marine Corps Air Station New River, Lt. Colonel Odin Lieberman, was relieved of duty in 2001 after allegations that he instructed his unit that they needed to falsify maintenance records to make the plane appear more reliable. Three officers were later implicated in the falsification scandal.
The aircraft is incapable of autorotation, and is therefore unable to land safely in helicopter mode if both engines fail. A director of the Pentagon's testing office in 2005 said that if the Osprey loses power while flying like a helicopter below 1,600 feet (490 m), emergency landings "are not likely to be survivable". But Captain Justin (Moon) McKinney, a V-22 pilot, says there is an alternative, "We can turn it into a plane and glide it down, just like a C-130".A complete loss of power would require the failure of both engines, as one engine can power both proprotors via interconnected drive shafts. While vortex ring state (VRS) contributed to a deadly V-22 accident, the aircraft is less susceptible to the condition than conventional helicopters based on flight testing. But a GAO report stated the V-22 to be "less forgiving than conventional helicopters" during this phenomenon. In addition, several test flights to explore the V-22's VRS characteristics in greater detail were canceled. The Marines now train new pilots in the recognition of and recovery from VRS and have instituted operational envelope limits and instrumentation to help pilots avoid VRS conditions.
With the first combat deployment of the MV-22 in October 2007, Time Magazine ran an article condemning the aircraft as unsafe, overpriced, and completely inadequate. The Marine Corps, responded with the assertion that much of the article's data were dated, obsolete, inaccurate, and reflected expectations that ran too high for any new field of aircraft.
On 28 September 2005, the Pentagon formally approved full-rate production for the V-22. The plan is to boost production from 11 a year to between 24 and 48 a year by 2012. Of the 458 total planned, 360 are for the Marine Corps, 48 for the Navy, and 50 for the Air Force at an average cost of $110 million per aircraft, including development costs. The V-22 had an incremental flyaway cost of $67 million per aircraft in 2008, but the Navy hopes to shave about $10 million off that cost after a five-year production contract in 2013.
The Bell-Boeing will design a new integrated avionics processor to resolve electronics obsolescence issues and add new network capabilities. By 2014 Raytheon will provide an avionics upgrade that includes Situational awareness and Blue Force Tracking.
Mission improvements have been developed for the "Block C" version. A contract for the Block C upgrade and other improvements was awarded to Bell-Boeing in late 2009. Deliveries of Block C upgrades are ongoing in 2010.
U.S. Naval Air Systems Command is working on upgrades to increase the maximum speed from 250 knots (460 km/h; 290 mph) to 270 knots (500 km/h; 310 mph), increase helicopter mode altitude limit from 10,000 feet (3,000 m) to 12,000 feet (3,700 m) or 14,000 feet (4,300 m), and increase lift performance.
As part of a cost-cutting measure, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform suggests ending procurement of the V-22 and instead procure the MH-60.
The Osprey is the world's first production tiltrotor aircraft, with one three-bladed proprotor, turboprop engine, and transmission nacelle mounted on each wingtip. It is classified as a powered lift aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration. For takeoff and landing, it typically operates as a helicopter with the nacelles vertical and rotors horizontal. Once airborne, the nacelles rotate forward 90° in as little as 12 seconds for horizontal flight, converting the V-22 to a more fuel-efficient, higher-speed turboprop airplane. STOL rolling-takeoff and landing capability is achieved by having the nacelles tilted forward up to 45°. For compact storage and transport, the V-22's wing rotates to align, front-to-back, with the fuselage. The proprotors can also fold in a sequence taking 90 seconds. Composite materials make up 43% of the V-22's airframe. The proprotors blades also use composites.
The V-22's two Rolls-Royce AE 1107C engines are connected by drive shafts to a common center gearbox so that one engine can power both proprotors if an engine failure occurs. Most Osprey missions will use fixed wing flight 75 percent or more of the time, reducing wear and tear on the aircraft and reducing operational costs. This fixed wing flight is higher than typical helicopter missions allowing longer range line-of-sight communications and so improved command and control. Boeing has stated the V-22 design loses 10% of its vertical lift over a Tiltwing design when operating in helicopter mode because of airflow resistance due to the wings, but that the Tiltrotor design has better short takeoff and landing performance.
The V-22 is equipped with a glass cockpit, which incorporates four Multi-function displays (MFDs) and one shared Central Display Unit (CDU), allowing the pilots to display a variety of images including: digimaps centered or decentered on current position, FLIR imagery, primary flight instruments, navigation (TACAN, VOR, ILS, GPS, INS), and system status. The flight director panel of the Cockpit Management System (CMS) allows for fully-coupled (autopilot) functions which will take the aircraft from forward flight into a 50 ft (15 m) hover with no pilot interaction other than programming the system. The glass cockpit of the canceled CH-46X was derived from the V-22.
The V-22 is a fly-by-wire aircraft with triple-redundant flight control systems. With the nacelles pointing straight up in conversion mode at 90° the flight computers command the aircraft to fly like a helicopter, with cyclic forces being applied to a conventional swashplate at the rotor hub. With the nacelles in airplane mode (0°) the flaperons, rudder, and elevator fly the aircraft like an airplane. This is a gradual transition and occurs over the rotation range of the nacelles. The lower the nacelles, the greater effect of the airplane-mode control surfaces. The nacelles can rotate past vertical to 97.5° for rearward flight.
The Osprey can be armed with one 7.62x51mm NATO (.308 in caliber) M240 machine gun or .50 in caliber (12.7 mm) M2 machine gun on the loading ramp, that can be fired rearward when the ramp is lowered. A .50 in GAU-19 three-barrel gatling gun mounted below the V-22's nose was studied for future upgrade. BAE Systems developed a belly-mounted, remotely operated gun turret system for the V-22, named the Interim Defense Weapon System. This system is remotely operated by a gunner inside the aircraft, who acquires targets with a separate pod using color television and forward looking infrared imagery. The belly gun system was installed on half of the first V-22s deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, but found limited use due to its 800 lb (360 kg) weight and restrictive rules of engagement.
U.S. Marine Corps
Marine Corps crew training on the Osprey has been conducted by VMMT-204 since March 2000. On 3 June 2005, the Marine Corps helicopter squadron Marine Medium Helicopter 263 (HMM-263), stood down to begin the process of transitioning to the MV-22 Osprey. On 8 December 2005, Lieutenant General Amos, commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, accepted the delivery of the first fleet of MV-22s, delivered to HMM-263. The unit reactivated on 3 March 2006 as the first MV-22 squadron and was redesignated VMM-263. On 31 August 2006, VMM-162 (the former HMM-162) followed suit. On 23 March 2007, HMM-266 became Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (VMM-266) at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.
The Osprey has been replacing existing CH-46 Sea Knight squadrons. The MV-22 reached initial operational capability (IOC) with the U.S. Marine Corps on 13 June 2007. On 10 July 2007 an MV-22 Osprey landed aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious in the Atlantic Ocean. This marked the first time a V-22 had landed on any non-U.S. vessel.
On 13 April 2007, the U.S. Marine Corps announced that it would be sending ten V-22 aircraft to Iraq, the Osprey's first combat deployment. Commandant of the Marine Corps James T. Conway indicated that over 150 Marines would accompany the Osprey set for September deployment to Al Asad Airbase. On 17 September 2007, 10 MV-22Bs of VMM-263 left for Iraq aboard the USS Wasp. The decision to use a ship rather than use the Osprey's self-deployment capability was made because of concerns over icing during the North Atlantic portion of the trip, lack of available KC-130s for mid-air refueling, and the availability of the USS Wasp.
The Osprey has provided support in Iraq, logging 2,000 flight hours over three months with a mission capable rate of 68.1% as of late-January 2008. They are primarily used in Iraq's western Anbar province for routine cargo and troop movements, and also for riskier "aero-scout" missions. General David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, used one to fly around Iraq on Christmas Day 2007 to visit troops. Then-presidential candidate Barack Obama also flew in Ospreys during his high profile 2008 tour of Iraq.
The only major problem has been obtaining spare parts to maintain the aircraft. The V-22 had flown 3,000 sorties totaling 5,200 hours in Iraq as of July 2008. General George J. Trautman, III praised the increased speed and range of the V-22 over the legacy helicopters in Iraq and said that "it turned his battle space from the size of Texas into the size of Rhode Island."
Naval Air Systems Command has devised a temporary fix for sailors to place portable heat shields under Osprey engines to prevent damage to the decks of some of the Navy's smaller amphibious ships. They determined that a long-term solution to the problem would require the decks be redesigned with heat resistant coatings, passive thermal barriers, and changes in ship structure in order to operate V-22s and F-35Bs.
A Government Accountability Office study reported that by January 2009 the Marines had 12 MV-22s operating in Iraq and they completed all assigned missions. The same report found that the V-22 deployments had mission capable rates averaging 57% to 68% and an overall full mission capable rate of only 6%. It also stated that the aircraft had shown weakness in situational awareness, maintenance, shipboard operations and the ability to transport troops and external cargo. That study also concluded that the "deployments confirmed that the V-22's enhanced speed and range enable personnel and internal cargo to be transported faster and farther than is possible with the legacy helicopters it is replacing". Naval Air Systems Command hopes to reach a 85% reliability rate by 2018.
The MV-22 was deployed to Afghanistan in November 2009 with VMM-261, and saw its first offensive combat mission, Operation Cobra's Anger, on 4 December 2009. Ospreys assisted in inserting 1,000 Marines and 150 Afghan troops into the Now Zad Valley of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan to disrupt communication and supply lines of the Taliban. In January 2010 the MV-22 Osprey was sent to Haiti as part of Operation Unified Response relief efforts after the earthquake there, the aircraft's first humanitarian mission.
The Marines have found that the V-22's speed and range makes it a good operational match for fast jets. The service has therefore split Marine Expeditionary Unit operations into two groups with fast jets and V-22s in one group and helicopters in the other.
U.S. Air Force
The Air Force's first operational CV-22 Osprey was delivered to the 58th Special Operations Wing (58th SOW) at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico on 20 March 2006. This and subsequent aircraft will become part of the 58th SOW's fleet of aircraft used for training pilots and crew members for special operations use. On 16 November 2006, the Air Force officially accepted the CV-22 in a ceremony conducted at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
The Air Force first used the Osprey on a non-training mission to perform search and rescue from Kirtland Air Force Base on 4 October 2007.
The US Air Force's first operational deployment of the Osprey sent four CV-22s to Mali in November 2008 in support of Exercise Flintlock. The CV-22s flew nonstop from Hurlburt Field, Florida with in-flight refueling. AFSOC declared that the 8th Special Operations Squadron reached Initial Operational Capability on 16 March 2009, with six of its planned nine CV-22s operational.
In June 2009, CV-22s of the 8th Special Operations Squadron delivered 43,000 pounds (20,000 kg) of humanitarian supplies to remote villages in Honduras that were not accessible by conventional vehicles. In November 2009, the 8th SO Squadron and its six CV-22s returned from a three-month deployment in Iraq.
In 1999 the V-22 was studied for use in the United Kingdom's Royal Navy, and multiple times has been a candidate for its Maritime Airborne Surveillance and Control (MASC) project. Israel had shown interest in the purchase of MV-22s, but no order was placed. Flightglobal.com reported in late 2009 that Israel has decided to wait for the CH-53K instead.
The V-22 Osprey is a candidate for the Norwegian All Weather Search and Rescue Helicopter (NAWSARH) that is planned to replace the Westland Sea King Mk.43B of the Royal Norwegian Air Force in 2015. The other candidates for the NAWSARH contract of 10-12 helicopters are AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin, Eurocopter EC225, NHIndustries NH90 and Sikorsky S-92.
Bell Boeing has made an unsolicited offer of the V-22 for US Army medical evacuation needs. The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency issued a report that said that a common helicopter design would be needed for both combat recovery and medical evacuation and that the V-22 would not be suitable for recovery missions because of the difficulty of hoist operations and lack of self-defense capabilities.
The US Navy remains a potential user of the V-22, but its role and mission with the Navy remains unclear. The latest proposal is to replace the C-2 Greyhound with the V-22 for Carrier Onboard Delivery. The V-22 would have the advantage of being able to land on and support non-carriers with rapid delivery of supplies and people between the ships of a taskforce, or to ships on patrol beyond helicopter range. Loren B. Thompson of the Lexington Institute has suggested V-22s for use by the Air Force in combat search and rescue and for the USMC's Marine One presidential transport, which both need replacement aircraft. Boeing announced on 5 May 2010, that it would submit the V-22 to the DoD's VXX Marine One helicopter replacement program.
Pre-production full-scale development aircraft used for flight testing. These are unofficially considered A-variants after the 1993 redesign.
The U.S. Navy considered an HV-22 to provide combat search and rescue, delivery and retrieval of special warfare teams along with fleet logistic support transport. It chose the MH-60S for this role in 2001.
The proposed anti-submarine warfare Navy variant. The Navy studied the SV-22 in the 1980s to replace S-3 and SH-2 aircraft.
Basic U.S. Marine Corps transport; original requirement for 552 (now 360). The Marine Corps is the lead service in the development of the V-22 Osprey. The Marine Corps variant, the MV-22B, is an assault transport for troops, equipment and supplies, capable of operating from ships or from expeditionary airfields ashore. It is replacing the Marine Corps' CH-46E and CH-53D.
Air Force variant for the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). It conducts long-range, special operations missions, and is equipped with extra fuel tanks and terrain-following radar. It replaced the MH-53 Pave Low.
The U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force have a combined 112 V-22s in service as of May 2010. Most are used by the Marine Corps.
United States Air Force had 12 CV-22s in service as of April 2010.
8th Special Operations Squadron (8 SOS) at Hurlburt Field, Florida
71st Special Operations Squadron (71 SOS) at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico
20th Special Operations Squadron (20 SOS) at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico
United States Marine Corps had 83 MV-22s in operation as of March 2010.
VMMT-204 - Training squadron
VMX-22 - Marine Tiltrotor Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron
During testing from 1991 to 2000 there were four significant crashes resulting in 30 fatalities. Since becoming operational in 2007, the V-22 has had one loss due to accident, and seven other notable, but minor, aviation incidents.
On 11 June 1991, a miswired flight control system led to two minor injuries when the left nacelle struck the ground while the aircraft was hovering 15 feet (4.6 m) in the air, causing it to bounce and catch fire.
On 20 July 1992, a leaking gearbox led to a fire in the right nacelle, causing the aircraft to drop into the Potomac River in front of an audience of Congressmen and other government officials at Quantico, killing all seven on board and grounding the aircraft for 11 months.
On 8 April 2000, a V-22 loaded with Marines to simulate a rescue, attempted to land at Marana Northwest Regional Airport in Arizona, stalled when its right rotor entered vortex ring state, rolled over, crashed, and exploded, killing all 19 on board.
On 11 December 2000, after a catastrophic hydraulic leak and subsequent software instrument failure, a V-22 fell 1,600 feet (490 m) into a forest in Jacksonville, North Carolina, killing all four aboard. This caused the Marine Corps to ground their fleet of eight V-22s, the second grounding that year.
On 9 April 2010, a CV-22 crashed near Qalat, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, killing four. Evidence suggests the crash was caused by a loss of situational awareness and aerodynamic control. Brownout conditions and enemy fire have been ruled out by the USAF investigation.
Crew: Four (pilot, copilot and two flight engineers)
24 troops (seated), 32 troops (floor loaded), or
20,000 lb (9,070 kg) of internal cargo, or up to 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) of external cargo (dual hook)
1× Growler light internally transportable ground vehicle
Length: 57 ft 4 in (17.5 m)
Rotor diameter: 38 ft 0 in (11.6 m)
Wingspan: 45 ft 10 in (14 m)
Width with rotors: 84 ft 7 in (25.8 m)
Height: 22 ft 1 in/6.73 m; overall with nacelles vertical (17 ft 11 in/5.5 m; at top of tailfins)
Disc area: 2,268 ft² (212 m²)
Wing area: 301.4 ft² (28 m²)
Empty weight: 33,140 lb (15,032 kg)
Loaded weight: 47,500 lb (21,500 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 60,500 lb (27,400 kg)
Powerplant: 2× Rolls-Royce Allison T406/AE 1107C-Liberty turboshafts, 6,150 hp (4,590 kW) each
Maximum speed: 250 knots (463 km/h, 288 mph) at sea level / 305 kn (565 km/h; 351 mph) at 15,000 ft (4,600 m)
Cruise speed: 241 knots (277 mph, 446 km/h) at sea level
Range: 879 nmi (1,011 mi, 1,627 km)
Combat radius: 370 nmi (426 mi, 685 km)
Ferry range: 1,940 nmi (2,230 mi, 3,590 km) with auxiliary internal fuel tanks
Service ceiling: 26,000 ft (7,920 m)
Rate of climb: 2,320 ft/min (11.8 m/s)
Disc loading: 20.9 lb/ft² at 47,500 lb GW (102.23 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.259 hp/lb (427 W/kg)
1× 7.62 mm (.308 in) M240 machine gun or 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine gun on ramp, removable
1× 7.62 mm (.308 in) GAU-17 minigun, belly-mounted, retractable, video remote control in the Remote Guardian System (optional).