Boeing and the US Marine Corps are testing a new prototype roll-on/roll-off aerial refuelling system for the Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey this week, a senior USMC officer says.
The system, which consists of a high-speed aerial refuelling drogue and hose and reel mechanism, is being tested on a VMX-22 aircraft, says Col Michael Orr, the squadron's commander. However, the USMC is not paying for the tests itself, rather Boeing is paying for the demonstration, he says.
The system is currently a non-functional aerodynamic demonstrator, Orr says. However, the parts are off the shelf and Orr says he does not expect any hiccups.
Orr says that the USMC is very interested in the system for use with the Lockheed Martin F-35B. Currently, because F-35B test assets are scarce, the USMC is using a Boeing F/A-18 Hornet as a substitute, Orr says.
Earlier in the year, the USMC's deputy commandant for aviation Lt Gen Robert Schmidle laid out a number of operating concepts for the F-35B working in conjunction with MV-22s equipped with aerial refuelling kits.
One concept currently being examined is the deployment of a whole squadron of 16 F-35Bs on board an amphibious assault ship, along with six MV-22s. Those MV-22s would be equipped with a roll-on/roll-off aerial refuelling kit, which would greatly extend the range of the F-35B, Schmidle says.