Bell Boeing is mapping out a follow-on test and evaluation (FOT&E) flight programme for the V-22 Osprey, focusing on enhancements including a new gun system and a telescopic inflight refuelling probe for the US Marine Corps and US Air Force.

"Engineering and manufacturing (EMD) efforts are now wrapping up and the navy wants to retain a flight test contract and staff at Patuxent River.

"We had been planning to do this all along and we're now far enough downstream that we've finished up most of what we wanted to do in EMD," says John Buyers, Bell Boeing V-22 programme director.

As part of FOT&E, Bell Boeing has been contracted to evaluate and select a turreted weapon system for the USMC's MV-22 by September. The Osprey design has provision for a chin mounted turret weighing up to 136kg (300lb) with up to a 0.50in calibre weapon, although no decision has been taken between a single or multi-barrel system.

The USMC is seeking funding in 2001 to develop the turret and plans flight tests in 2003. The weapon will be retrofitable and or for new build MV-22s.

The USAF is also showing interest in the system for its planned fleet of 48 CV-22s for Special Operations Command.

A retractable refuelling probe will replace the 1.5m (5ft)-long fixed probe from production lot 6. The telescopic probe will provide a better visual reference for pilots when extended to 3.35m and give the gun turret a wider field of fire and improve shipboard elevator clearance. It is believed that the UK's Flight Refuelling will provide the probe.

Source: Flight International