Boeing believes it can build on a recent contract award from the US Navy for the V-22 Osprey and offer the tiltrotor to other future operators of the Lockheed Martin F-35B short take-off and vertical landing fighter.
Bell Boeing will supply 44 Ospreys - designated as the CMV-22B - to the USN to replace the service's Northrop Grumman C-2A Greyhound carrier on-board delivery (COD) aircraft.
A key modification will be a higher capacity fuel system, increasing range to 1,150nm (2,130km) from 860nm for the baseline MV-22B.
COD aircraft are an essential lifeline for carrier battle groups, delivering personnel, urgently needed spare parts, and other essentials, and crucially for F-35 operators, spare engines.
“We look for other countries that have carrier battle groups, where the V-22 could provide that long-range, flexible logistics resupply for them,” says Rick Lemaster, director tiltrotor business development at Boeing.
Previous trials have qualified the Osprey for carriage of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine that powers all variants of the F-35.
Two countries plan to operate the B-variant of the fighter from carriers: the United Kingdom and Italy.
But apart from future F-35B operators, the company is also looking at supplying navies that have a more general amphibious assault capability.
“The multiple roles and mission capabilities of the V-22 allow it to do the missions of several different platforms,” says Ed Hassiepen, global sales and marketing – cargo, at Boeing.
He says the long range of the Osprey compared with traditional helicopters allows navies to keep warships outside the threat envelope of the enemy’s offensive weapons in a littoral environment.
So far, the only international customer for the Osprey is Japan, which has ordered 17. Tokyo plans to develop better amphibious assault capabilities in response to China’s improved naval capabilities, and simmering territorial disputes between the two countries over contested islands in the East China Sea.
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