The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey joint programme office has opted to equip the tiltrotor with a ramp-mounted machine gun as an interim alternative to an integrated weapon turret in a bid to cut costs. It is also answering Department of Defense criticism about the decision not to retrofit test tiltrotors with crashworthy fuel tanks.

"We're looking at an interim gun mounted to the side and tail ramp for testing during Opeval [operational evaluation] as there are difficulties with the nose gun," says Col Raymond Schwartz, head of aviation weapons, Headquarters US Marine Corps. The programme office has shelved plans to integrate the General Dynamics GAU-19 gun turret under the chin due to cost.

The gun would have been integrated with the flight control computer to ensure safe fields of fire, and slaved to the Raytheon AAQ-27 forward-looking infrared imager and planned helmet mounted sight. The Osprey for now will be armed with manually operated 0.5in (13mm) machine guns.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General has criticised the US Navy for not retrofitting the V-22 with new crashworthy fuel tanks before resuming flight testing in May. But Col Dan Schultz, V-22 programme manager, says a risk analysis showed there was little value fitting the tanks to the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) machines given the type of flight testing. There are three EMD and one low rate initial production V-22s flying.

Source: Flight International