Boeing is working on developing a roll-on/roll-off aerial refuelling kit for the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey because of interest expressed by the US Marine Corps and US Special Operations Command.
"We are already finalising our designs for what that roll-on/roll-off kit will look like," says Boeing's V-22 business development manager Joe Weston.
The aerial refuelling kit has already been tested in a windtunnel, but Boeing intends to flight test the system onboard a government-owned V-22 during the summer of 2013, Weston says.
But the roll-on/roll-off kit is also applicable to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance functions, which could include an aerial surveillance radar capability, Boeing officials say.
The addition of an aerial refuelling capability onto the V-22 would be a significant boost to the aviation capabilities of amphibious assault ships. If adopted by the USMC, it would mean aviation units assigned to such vessels would gain an organic aerial refuelling capability, which would greatly increase their striking power.
Coupled with airborne early warning capability and the short take-off and vertical landing Lockheed Martin F-35B, it would afford vessels such as the USS Wasp capabilities that were previously only seen onboard full-size carriers like the US Navy's Nimitz-class vessels.