V-22 air lift

V-22 Osprey

Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey

Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey

The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is the world's first operational tiltrotor, combining the vertical lift qualities of a helicopter with the forward flight characteristics of a conventional transport aircraft. Rotating engine nacelles are the key to the V-22 Osprey's capabilities, making it twice as fast as a helicopter but still able to operate within highly restricted operational sites. A true multirole platform, the Osprey is tasked with amphibious assault, Special Operations, battlefield support, search and rescue, medical evacuation and the pure transport role, according to specific mission requirements. Two versions are produced, the CV-22 (used by the USAF) and the MV-22 (USMC).

V-22 OspreyBell Boeing V-22 Osprey
Left Image - US Air Force photo/Capt. Christian Helms - courtesy Wikimedia Commons Right Image - Copyright Boeing

V-22 Osprey History

The V-22 is the result of pioneering work undertaken by Bell Aircraft, NASA and the US Army during the 1970s. Their XV-15 Tiltrotor test-bed validated their forward/vertical flight concept and, its flight research programme completed, attention turned to a larger and more capable platform. 1981 saw the US Department of Defense's JVX (Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental) programme initiated, with Bell and Boeing awarded a co-development contract two years later.

 

From the programme's outset, it was envisaged that the V-22 Osprey would equip the USAF, US Navy, US Army and US Marine Corps. Boeing and Bell co-developed the aircraft, which first flew on 19 March 1989. Boeing was responsible for the Osprey's fuselage, cockpit, avionics and flight control systems, while Bell manufactured its wings, engine nacelles, engines, rotor blades and rear control surfaces. Several early test flights ended in disaster but, with safety improvements incorporated, upgraded versions resumed the Osprey trials programme in 1993. Four years on, the type finally entered service.

Osprey Military Aircraft
Image - Copyright Chief Petty Officer Joe Kane/US Navy - Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

V-22 Operations

The V-22 Osprey's capabilities are described by co-developer Boeing as 'unique'. They include increased speed arising from its rotating engines, increased range and enhanced 'mission-versatility' and its ability to be tasked with so many different roles. USMC MV-22s were operationally-deployed for the first time in 2007, when 10 examples arrived in Iraq. Two more were in place by 2009 and GAO (Government Accountability Office) data reveals that the aircraft flew all missions assigned to them. In November 2009, MV-22s were sent to Afghanistan, the deployed fleet ultimately accumulating some 100,000 flying hours. Other notable Osprey deployments have seen the type dispatched to Haiti after its 2010 earthquake and to Libya in connection with 2011's Operational Odyssey Dawn.

Osprey Specifications

The V-22 Osprey is 57 feet, four inches long with an overall wing span (including the rotor blades) of 83 feet, ten inches. Power is supplied by a pair of Allison T406-AD-400 gas turbine engines, rated at 12,300 shaft horsepower combined. These give the Osprey a cruising speed of 317 miles per hour and a top speed of 363 miles per hour. Maximum takeoff weight is 55,000 pounds if a conventional launch is carried out, reducing to 47,500 pounds in the vertical takeoff mode.

V-22 Engines

The V-22 Osprey's rotating engines enable it to transition from forward to vertical flight and vice-versa. Comprised of wingtip-mounted engine nacelles and huge three-bladed contra-rotating propellers, the entire system pivots through 90 degrees as it moves from the vertical to the
horizontal position. This process takes a minimum of 12 seconds to complete, while cross-coupled transmissions ensure that, if there's an engine failure, the other engine can still power both rotors and controlled flight can still be maintained.

V-22 Osprey for Military OperationsV-22 Osprey Airlifting Personnel
Images - Copyright Boeing

Osprey Cargo

The Osprey's cargo compartment is 24 feet long, six feet wide and six feet deep. Access is supplied by a cargo ramp situated at the rear of the fuselage. Role-dependent, up to 24 combat-equipped troops, 12 stretchers and a medical officers team or 8,000+ pounds of cargo can fit inside this cabin. External cargo hooks supplement the V-22's internal capacity, these able to lift a combined load of 15,000 pounds. Able to be deployed to locations the world-over, the V-22 has a ferry range of some 2,000 nautical miles.

Ospreys In Japan

In July 2012, 12 USMC MV-22 Ospreys arrived in Japan at the start of a controversial deployment. Many Japanese residents were concerned about the type's earlier crashes and its overall safety record. Ahead of their arrival, the US Embassy stressed how ‘deployment of these aircraft in Japan is a vital component in fulfilling the United States' commitment to provide for the defense of Japan and to help maintain peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region' but, still, many complaints were made, spearheaded by local officials. Two months later, the Japanese Ministry of Defence confirmed that the Ospreys could operate within Japanese airspace, albeit with some flight restrictions in place. "We have confirmed the safety for the Osprey to operate, and on the premise that there will be maximum consideration provided for the public, we have decided to allow the United States to start operating the Osprey", it said, specifying that nuclear power plant and populated area over-flights would be completely banned, and no flights could take place below an altitude of 500 feet.

Osprey Transport Aircraft
Image - Copyright Boeing

Osprey Operators

At present, the USAF and USMC remain the only V-22 Osprey operators but both the Israeli Air Force and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces plan to take on the type in future years. Israeli Air Force pilots flight-trialled the Osprey back in 2011 and subsequently declared great satisfaction with its handling qualities and capabilities. In April 2013, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel specified that, in Israeli Air Force service, the V-22 would undertake "long-range, high-speed, maritime search-and-rescue capabilities to deal with a number of threats and contingencies." Potentially, Israel would receive six V-22s but could end up with twice that number. Japan is another likely future Osprey operator, with approval given on Christmas Eve 2013 for Japan to get 17 V-22s.

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