MV-22 Osprey aircraft take off from Sather Air Base, Iraq. Sather AB, located on the west side of Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), is the largest passenger and cargo hub in Iraq. The V-22 Osprey is a multi-mission, military tiltrotor aircraft with both a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability. It is designed to perform missions like a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft. The V-22 was developed by Bell Helicopter, which manufactures it in partnership with Boeing Helicopters. The initial operators are the United States Marine Corps and Air Force. The FAA classifies the Osprey as a model of powered lift aircraft.
The Department of Defense began the V-22 program in 1981, first under Army leadership, then the Navy/Marine Corps later took the lead in developing what was then known as the Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental (JVX) aircraft. Full-scale development of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft began in 1986.
The V-22 was developed and is built jointly by Bell Helicopter, which manufactures and integrates the wing, nacelles, rotors, drive system, tail surfaces, and aft ramp, as well as integrates the Rolls-Royce engines, and Boeing Helicopters, which manufactures and integrates the fuselage, cockpit, avionics, and flight controls. Portions of the aircraft are manufactured in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Grand Prairie, Texas, and Fort Worth, Texas. Final assembly and delivery occurs in Amarillo, Texas. The joint development team is known as Bell Boeing.
The first of six MV-22 prototypes first flew on March 19, 1989 in the helicopter mode and on September 14, 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. However, the fourth and fifth prototypes crashed in 1990-91. Flight tests were resumed in August 1993 after changes were incorporated in the prototypes.
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 in Patuxent River, MD. The first EMD Flight took place on February 5, 1997. The first of four low-rate initial production aircraft, ordered on April 28, 1997, was delivered on May 27, 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 there were two further fatal crashes, killing a total of 19 marines, and the production was again halted 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. It was claimed that the problems identified in various accidents had been addressed by the V-22 program office.
On September 28, 2005, the Pentagon formally approved full-rate production for the V-22. The plan was to boost production from 11 a year to between 24 and 48 a year by 2012. Planned production quantities include 360 for the Marine Corps, 48 for the Navy, and 50 for the Air Force. The U.S. Army, originally the lead service for the then-named JVX program, is a possible candidate for use.
The V-22 had a flyaway cost of $70 million per aircraft in 2007, but the Navy hopes to shave about $10 million off that price after a five-year production contract starts in 2008.
A total of 458 V-22s are expected to be built for the Marines, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy at an average unit cost of $110 million per aircraft.
Israel has shown interest in the purchase of an undisclosed number of MV-22s, but an order has not been placed or approved.
USMC crew training on the Osprey has been conducted by VMMT-204 since March 2000. On 3 June 2005, the Marine Corps helicopter squadron HMM-263, stood down to begin the process of transitioning to the MV-22 Osprey. On 8 December 2005, Lieutenant General Amos, commander of the 2nd 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 March 23, 2007, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 became Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (VMM-266) at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.
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 crewmembers for special operations use.
Crew members refuel an MV-22 before a night mission in central Iraq, February 2008.
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 an MV-22 had landed on any non-US vessel.
The Osprey entered operational service with the Marine Corps in 2007, in some cases replacing existing CH-46 Sea Knight squadrons. On 13 April 2007 the United States Marine Corps announced that it would be sending 10 V-22 aircraft to Iraq, the Osprey's first combat deployment. Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Conway, indicated that over 150 Marines would accompany the Osprey set for September deployment to Al-Asad Airfield. 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.
A MV-22 of VMM-162 in Iraq, April 2008.
The Osprey has provided support in Iraq, racking up some 2000 flight hours over three months with a mission capable availability 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. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, used one to fly around Iraq on Christmas Day, 2007, to visit troops. Presidential candidate Barack Obama also flew in Ospreys during his high profile 2008 tour of Iraq. The only major problem has been obtaining the necessary spare parts to maintain the aircraft. Minor problems included the engines wearing quicker than desired, on four occasions V-22s at forward bases were grounded until repairs could be made to the oil cooling systems, and on one occasion a V-22 was forced to make an emergency landing due to the engine breaking up.
Data from Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, Naval Air Systems Command, and the CV-22 Air Force Fact Sheet.
Crew: two pilots
Capacity: 24 troops (seated), 32 troops (floor loaded) or up to 15,000 pounds of cargo
Length: 57 ft 4 in (17.5 m)
Rotor diameter: 38 ft 0 in (11.6 m)
Wingspan: 46 ft (14 m); 84 ft 7 in (including rotors))
Height: 22 ft 1 in (overall - 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 Rolls-Royce T406 (AE 1107C-Liberty) turboshafts, 6,150 hp (4,590 kW) each
Maximum speed: 275 knots (316 mph, 509 km/h)
Cruise speed: 214 knots (246 mph, 396 km/h) at sea level
Range: 879 nmi (1,011 mi, 1,627 km) (unrefueled)
Combat radius: 370 nmi (430 mi, 690 km)
Ferry range: 2,417 nm (2,781 mi, 4,476 km)
Service ceiling 26,000 ft (7,925 m)
Rate of climb: 2,320 ft/min (11.8 m/s)
Disc loading: 20.9 lb/ft² @ 47,500 lb GW (102.23 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.259 hp/lb (427 W/kg)