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11 November 2015

USMC V-22 Programme Manager Details Progress

Bell Boeing's V-22 OSPREY tilrotor aircraft was on display during this year's edition of the Dubai air show. On day three of the show, Col. Dan Robinson (United States Marine Corps - USMC), head of the V-22 joint programme office, detailed the latest progress with the V-22 programme for the US military.


The current programme of record calls for the delivery of 360 MV-22 aircraft to the USMC, 266 of which have been delivered to date, Robinson said. Replacing the Vietnam era CH-46 Sea KNIGHT, the new aircraft are used for amphibious assault and combat assault as well as special operations. 70% of the MV-22 squadrons have been stood up with Marine Corps Air Stations (MCAS) New River and Miramar, respectively on the East and West Coast of the United States  housing the majority of the aircraft that have been delivered to the Marine Corps, Robinson indicated. Meanwhile, MV-22 aircraft are now also being moved into a second base on the West Coast, Camp Pendleton. Marine units stationed at Okinawa, Japan are now also supported by the tiltotor aircraft while Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii will also see OSPREYs being stationed there. In addition, a small number of MV-22s operating as part of squadron HMX-1 are used to transport White House staff.

Current USSOCOM requirements call for 52 CV-22 aircraft including a small number of attrition replacement aircraft. Used for long range special operations including infiltration, exfiltration and resupply, 48 aircraft have been handed over with 85 percent of the air force squadrons having been stood up. The next location to receive the CV-22 is Pacific Command's Yokota air base in Japan with European Command's CV-22 squadron to move from RAF Mildenhall in the UK to Spangdahlem air base in Germany, it has been announced. CONUS based units operating the special operations version of the Osprey are at Cannon, Kirtland and Hurlburt AFB. A high profile mission that was recently conducted with help of the CV-22 was the December 2013 evacuation mission in Bor, South Sudan in which three aircraft were damaged and some of the personnel on board the aircraft were injured having been hit by small arms fire. All three aircraft have since been repaired and returned to service, Robinson said.


A more recent customer is the US Navy which aims to get 48 V-22s for a number of missions including sea based logistics, personnel recovery and special warfare. As the US Navy wants extended range capability for its Osprey tiltrotor aircraft in order to support activities with its carrier strike groups, three changes to the aircraft that has been tentatively called the HV-22, are required, Robinson said. This includes adding fuel which will be accommodated in bigger sponsons while BLOS HF communications and a public address system will also be added, he said. Development of the US Navy variant will commence in fiscal year 2016 (FY2016) while production is to commence in FY2018, the V-22 programme manager indicated. The first aircraft will be handed over in FY2020 with IOC to be reached in FY2021.

First and only export customer so far is Japan which requires up to 17 aircraft for missions very similar to the USMC's conventional mission set as well as for disaster relief and humanitarian relief.
Recent accomplishments that were reached under the leadership of the joint programme office include the clearance for refuelling Osprey aircraft from the USAF's KC-10A Extender tanker last fall. This initiative is part of the effort to relieve the stress on the USMC's fleet of KC-130J aircraft that are routinely deployed alongside the MV-22. Some four of these tanker aircraft are now forward deployed to Moron air base in Spain for instance where they support activities by the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response Africa (SPMAGTF-CR-AF) that is operating the MV-22 from the same location. Under operation United Assistance, Ospreys from this unit recently saw action in Liberia as part of the campaign against ebola. Other recent activities by the joint programme office have been aimed at demonstrating interoperability with allied naval assets including the Republic of Korea Navy's Dokdo LPH, the French Navy's MISTRAL-class Dixmude LHD, the Spanish Juan Carlos I and the Royal Netherlands Navy's Joint Support Ship Karel Doorman. Meanwhile, a recent test campaign conducted by the developmental test squadron HX-21 on board the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the MV-22 being used to execute fourteen short take offs at the aircraft's maximum gross weight of 60,500 pounds at various wind conditions.

While the introduction of ballistic protection and improved engine inlets has been contracted, Robinson said the V-22 joint programme office was now looking into integrated ASE equipment and networking capabilities for Osprey aircraft. One of the things being studied is the integration of a limited manned unmanned teaming capability under which imagery, presumably from the Marine Corps' new Insitu RQ-21 Blackjack small tactical UAS can be received in the cabin of the MV-22. Also partly contracted is the effort to see the V-22 Osprey being turned into an aerial tanker, hereby further increasing the operational reach of the Marine Corps' MV-22 and other air assets. A more long term initiative is the weaponisation of the Osprey with both forward firing and ramp launched solutions being considered. Robinson   mentioned the integration of guided and unguided rockets as well as Griffin small guided munitions being studied.


Also on the wishlist of the Marine Corps is bringing up all of its OSPREY aircraft to Block C standards which would allow it to achieve a common fleet based on the current production version that is being delivered as part of the Multi Year Procurement II (MYPII) scheme. With 76 out of 101 MYPII aircraft still to be delivered, Congressional approval is now being sought for a follow on multi year scheme under which foreign military sales could be offered at reduced cost. Robinson said that three to four countries have shown to be interested in the aircraft. This number is thought to include Israel and the UAE. However, the latter country announced yesterday it would opt for AgustaWestland's AW609 design to meet a requirement for three long range SAR aircraft.

Pieter Bastiaans