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The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey; RAF Fairford, July 19 & 20, 2015

The Royal International Air Tattoo, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is the first aircraft in the world which was developed and eventually produced according to the so-called tilt-rotor concept. A tilt rotor is a special type of propeller which allows an aircraft to take off and land vertically like a helicopter and to fly horizontally like a conventional airplane.

In 1981, Bell Helicopters started the development of the V-22 Osprey. This aircraft would be a tiltrotor aircraft for the US Air Force and the US Marine Corps. The tiltrotor aircraft would combine the vertical lift capabilities of a helicopter with the speed and operational flight capabilities of a turboprop aircraft. The investigation of the possi- bilities for a tilt rotor aircraft began in the 40s of the 20th century with the Bell XV-3. The experimental aircraft was eventually built in 1953 and was in use until 1966. At that time the aircraft yielded much information about the concept of the tiltrotor aircraft. In 1972, the developed was continued as the XV-15 by Bell Helicopter Textron with funding from NASA and the US Army. This concept was a twin-engine tiltrotor aircraft for research. Bell worked alongside the Osprey also together with Agusta Westland to develop the commercial BA609. Features of the Bell Boeing V-22 are the dual tail and short wide wings with the engines at the tips of the wings with a three-bladed rotor. With this new concept not only the demands of tactical airlift were increased, but also the rules of engagement were tightened sharply. The Osprey has over twice the speed capabilities, three times the payload capabilities and a five times larger operational range than the best transport helicopters in the world. The aircraft replaces the Sikorsky CH-53 Super Stallion and the Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight in the United States. The Osprey is able to carry 24 soldiers with full combat equipment or 9072 kg internal load or 6804 kg external cargo.

The V-22 Osprey is produced by a consortium of the aircraft manufacturers Bell Helicopter and the Boeing Company. The different modules of the aircraft are built in Philadelphia and eventually assembled in Amarillo. The development of the V-22 started in 1985 and took in 1988 more than 30 billion dollars. The program that would lead to the Osprey was known as the JVX program. In total six prototypes of the Osprey would be built. The aircraft would be built by Boeing Vertol due to the larger

production capacities of its factory. The first V-22 was shown for the first time during a media day to the public in May 1988. The first test flight was already made in 1989 and after a series of technical errors; it appeared that the concept would not be good enough for operational service. The aircraft was alongside extraordinarily labeled as hazardous. It seemed that the program would be cancelled soon. Eventually, the program received in 1993 a financial injection from the US government. The development of the prototype would cost a total of over 20 years. The development of the Osprey began late and was perfected since 2005 when the aircraft was produced on a large scale. The Osprey's which have been developed for the USMC would be designated as the MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and the aircraft for the US Air Force would be designated as the CV-22 Osprey.

The first production Osprey of a production batch of 458 Osprey's which are ordered was delivered to the USMC by Bell Boeing on May 13, 2007. Of this production series are 360 aircraft to be delivered to the USMC, 48 for the US Navy and 50 for the US Air Force. The Osprey had an acquisition cost of 110 million dollars per aircraft when it was introduced in 2005. The biggest appearance characteristic of the V-22 is the tilt rotor configuration. The engines have an extraordinarily large propeller which cannot be positioned horizontally on the ground, because the blades would touch the ground. The aircraft is able to take off and land vertically just like a helicopter. In the air, the engines will rotate slowly to the horizontal position and the aircraft is speeding up. When the rotors of the Osprey are horizontally positioned the aircraft has the properties of a tactical transport aircraft. The two engines of the V-22 are of the type Rolls-Royce AE1107C Liberty turboshaft and each delivers an output power of 4586 kW. When the Osprey is taken off, the rotors can move 90째 from the vertical to the horizontal position within 12 seconds. The Osprey's which had already been produced would receive their first update in 2010 when the electronics of the aircraft were dras- tically upgraded. After this update, the aircraft had plenty of networking opportunities and better processors. The V-22 of the USMC received the Block C update in February 2012. During the upgrade the aircraft received new radar and a mission management system. In 2014, the Osprey's would further undergo an electronic update. The aircraft were then provided with situational awareness and Blue Force Tracking.

The USMC is the organization which is using the largest amount of the American Osprey's. The tiltrotor aircraft can be equipped for amphibious missions and flights from a ship to a target on land for a long-term mission. The first operational USMC Osprey squadron was VMM-263 which started in March 2006 with the preparations in New River, North Carolina. The current USMC units which are flying the V-22, are; VMX-22 which is a test and evaluation squadron, VMM-162 VMM-204 which is a training unit, VMM-263 and VMM 266. From 2010 several new Osprey squadrons were permanently based at NAS Miramar in San Diego. The Osprey made for the USMC a change in mindset. Until now, the Marines lowered themselves down on ropes from helicopters during the so-called fast roping operations. This is impossible with the Osprey due to the heavy wind produced by the propellers. The MV-22s which were delivered to the US Navy will be deployed for search and rescue and transport duties. At the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) were 50 improved CV-22 aircraft delivered which are flying at the Special Operations Squadrons (SOS). The first operational SOS unit which was equipped with the Osprey was the 8th SOS of the 1st SOW at Hurlburt Field in Florida in November 2006. The other SOS unit also acts as a training squadron; this unit is the 71st SOS at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico. Also at Mildenhall in the United Kingdom are CV-22s stationed at the 7th SOS.




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