The US Marine Corps’ (USMC) Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor was set to complete the embarked phase of its operational evaluation (Opeval) on 23 June, with an eight-strong fleet ending a two-week deployment aboard the assault ship USS Bataan.

“We’ve come a long way on the shipboard suitability of the aircraft and we hope to get a very favourable report out of that test,” said V-22 deputy programme manager USMC Col Bill Taylor at the Paris air show. A positive report by the USMC’s VMX-22 tiltrotor test and evaluation squadron is vital if the MV-22 is to receive a full-rate production decision in September or October. “In a general sense, we feel it’s going very well”, said Taylor.

US Navy MV22

If full-rate production is approved, a long-delayed and broad marketing effort will be launched, focusing on international armed forces and potential new US customers. The US Navy has discussed buying up to 48 HV-22s for shipboard replenishment missions, while the tiltrotor will also be a contender in the US Air Force’s Combat Search and Rescue–X (formerly Personnel Recovery Vehicle) programme.

The USMC intends to buy 360 MV-22s, with its first frontline unit to stand up with the type at New River, North Carolina on 1 March 2006. The Osprey will achieve initial operational capability (IOC) with the service in February/March 2007, said Taylor. Twenty-two of the service’s 29 Block A aircraft have now been delivered for operational test and training, with its first Block B “deployable flight configuration” example to be available from December for fielding in 2007. Development of a Block C configuration will start next year ahead of service introduction in 2011.

An “operational utility evaluation” of the USAF’s CV-22 Osprey – which has 90% airframe commonality with the MV-22, but features 60-80% new avionics – is to start in mid-2006, with IOC anticipated in 2009. However, the air force programme must first overcome a six-month testing delay. A third test aircraft has been delivered to Edwards AFB, California to accelerate the Opeval process.


Source: Flight International