V-22 Osprey

The V-22 Osprey is a multi-mission, military tiltrotor aircraft with both a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability. It is designed to perform missions like a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft. The V-22 was developed by Bell Helicopter, which manufactures it in partnership with Boeing Helicopters. The initial operators are the United States Marine Corps and Air Force. The FAA classifies the Osprey as a model of powered lift aircraft.


The Department of Defense began the V-22 program in 1981, first under Army leadership, then the Navy/Marine Corps later took the lead in developing what was then known as the Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental (JVX) aircraft. Full-scale development of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft began in 1986.

The V-22 was developed and is built jointly by Bell Helicopter, which manufactures and integrates the wing, nacelles, rotors, drive system, tail surfaces, and aft ramp, as well as integrates the Rolls-Royce engines, and Boeing Helicopters, which manufactures and integrates the fuselage, cockpit, avionics, and flight controls. Portions of the aircraft are manufactured in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Grand Prairie, Texas, and Fort Worth, Texas. Final assembly, flight testing, and delivery occurs in Amarillo, Texas. The joint development team is known as Bell Boeing.

The first of six MV-22 prototypes first flew on 19 March 1989 in the helicopter mode and on 14 September 1989 as a fixed-wing plane. The third and fourth prototypes successfully completed the Osprey's first Sea Trials on the USS Wasp in December 1990. However, the fourth and fifth prototypes crashed in 1990-91. Flight tests were resumed in August 1993 after changes were incorporated in the prototypes.

Flight testing of four full-scale development V-22s began in early 1997 when the first pre-production V-22 was delivered to the Naval Air Warfare Test Center in Patuxent River, MD. The first EMD Flight took place on 5 February 1997. The first of four low-rate initial production aircraft, ordered on 28 April 1997, was delivered on 27 May 1999. Osprey number 10 completed the program's second Sea Trials, this time from the USS Saipan in January 1999. During external load testing in April 1999, Boeing used a V-22 to lift and transport the M777 howitzer.

In 2000 there were two further fatal crashes, killing a total of 19 marines, and the production was again halted while the cause of these crashes was investigated and various parts were redesigned.

The V-22 completed its final operational evaluation in June 2005. The evaluation was deemed successful; events included long range deployments, high altitude, desert and shipboard operations. It was claimed that the problems identified in various accidents had been addressed by the V-22 program office.

On 28 September 2005, the Pentagon formally approved full-rate production for the V-22. The plan was to boost production from 11 a year to between 24 and 48 a year by 2012. Planned production quantities include 360 for the Marine Corps, 48 for the Navy, and 50 for the Air Force. The U.S. Army, originally the lead service for the then-named JVX program, is a possible candidate for use.

The V-22 had a flyaway cost of $70 million per aircraft in 2007, but the Navy hopes to shave about $10 million off that price after a five-year production contract starts in 2008.

A total of 458 V-22s are expected to be built for the Marines, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy at an average unit cost of $110 million per aircraft.

Israel has shown interest in the purchase of an undisclosed number of MV-22s, but an order has not been placed or approved.


The V-22's development process has been long and controversial. When the development budget, first projected at $2.5 billion in 1986, increased to $30 billion in 1988, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney tried to zero out its funding. He was eventually overruled by Congress. As of September 2007, the Osprey program spent $20 billion over 25 years of development, and will require another $35 billion from the Pentagon before the program is completed.

The V-22 squadron's former commander at Marine Corps Air Station New River, Lieutenant Colonel Odin Lieberman, was relieved of duty in 2001 after allegations that he instructed his unit that they needed to falsify maintenance records to make the plane appear more reliable.

The aircraft is incapable of autorotation in the case of engine failure, a fact that led a director of the Pentagon's testing office in 2005 to say that if the Osprey loses power while flying like a helicopter below 1,600 feet (490 m), emergency landings "are not likely to be survivable". But Captain Justin (Moon) McKinney, a V-22 pilot, says that this will not be a problem, "We can turn it into a plane and glide it down, just like a C-130". A complete loss of power would require the failure of both engines, as a drive shaft connects the nacelles through the wing; one engine can power both proprotors.

In 2000 Boeing announced that all V-22s were going to be fitted with a nose mounted GAU-19 Gatling gun, to provide "the V-22 with a strong defensive firepower capability to greatly increase the aircraft's survivability in hostile actions. But the GAU-19 project was canceled, leading to criticism by retired Marine General James L. Jones, who is not satisfied with the current V-22 armament.

With the first combat deployment of the MV-22 in October 2007, Time Magazine ran an article condemning the aircraft as unsafe, overpriced, and completely inadequate. The Marine Corps, however, responded with the assertion that much of the article's data was dated, obsolete, inaccurate, and with expectations that ran too high for any new field of aircraft.


The Osprey is the world's first production tiltrotor aircraft, with one three-bladed proprotor, turboprop engine, and transmission nacelle mounted on each wingtip. For takeoff and landing, it typically operates as a helicopter with the nacelles vertical (rotors horizontal). Once airborne, the nacelles rotate forward 90° in as little as 12 seconds for horizontal flight, converting the V-22 to a more fuel-efficient, higher-speed turboprop airplane. STOL rolling-takeoff and landing capability is achieved by having the nacelles tilted forward up to 45°. For compact storage and transport, the V-22's wing rotates to align, front-to-back, with the fuselage. The proprotors can also fold in a sequence taking 90 seconds.

The V-22 is equipped with a glass cockpit, which incorporates four Multi-Function Displays (MFDs) and one shared Central Display Unit (CDU), allowing the pilots to display a variety of images including: digimaps centered or decentered on current position, FLIR imagery, primary flight instruments, navigation (TACAN, VOR, ILS, GPS, INS), and system status. The flight director panel of the Cockpit Management System (CMS) allows for fully-coupled (aka: autopilot) functions which will take the aircraft from forward flight into a 50-foot hover with no pilot interaction other than programming the system.

The V-22 is a fly-by-wire aircraft with triple-redundant flight control systems. With the nacelles pointing straight up in conversion mode at 90° the flight computers command the aircraft to fly like a helicopter, with cyclic forces being applied to a conventional swashplate at the rotor hub. With the nacelles in airplane mode (0°) the flaperons, rudder, and elevator fly the aircraft like an airplane. This is a gradual transition which occurs over the entire 96° range of the nacelles. The lower the nacelles, the greater effect of the airplane-mode control surfaces.

The Osprey is armed with one 0.308 in (7.62 mm) machine gun pointing rearward that can be fired when the loading ramp is lowered. A GAU-19 three-barrel 0.50 in (12.7 mm) gatling gun mounted below the V-22's nose has also been studied for future upgrade. BAE Systems is also developing a remotely operated turreted weapons system for the V-22.

Operational history

USMC crew training on the Osprey has been conducted by VMMT-204 since March 2000. On 3 June 2005, the Marine Corps helicopter squadron HMM-263, stood down to begin the process of transitioning to the MV-22 Osprey. On 8 December 2005, Lieutenant General Amos, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, accepted the delivery of the first fleet of MV-22s, delivered to HMM-263. The unit reactivated on 3 March 2006 as the first MV-22 squadron and was redesignated VMM-263. On 31 August 2006, VMM-162 (the former HMM-162) followed suit. On 23 March 2007, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 became Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (VMM-266) at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.

The Air Force's first operational CV-22 Osprey was delivered to the 58th Special Operations Wing (58th SOW) at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico on 20 March 2006. This and subsequent aircraft will become part of the 58th SOW's fleet of aircraft used for training pilots and crewmembers for special operations use.

On 10 July 2007 an MV-22 Osprey landed aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious in the Atlantic Ocean. This marked the first time an MV-22 had landed on any non-US vessel.

The Osprey entered operational service with the Marine Corps in 2007, in some cases replacing existing CH-46 Sea Knight squadrons. On 13 April 2007 the United States Marine Corps announced that it would be sending 10 V-22 aircraft to Iraq, the Osprey's first combat deployment. Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Conway, indicated that over 150 Marines would accompany the Osprey set for September deployment to Al-Asad Airfield. On 17 September 2007, 10 MV-22Bs of VMM-263 left for Iraq aboard the USS Wasp. The decision to use a ship rather than use the Osprey's self-deployment capability was made because of concerns over icing during the North Atlantic portion of the trip, lack of available KC-130s for mid-air refueling, and the availability of the USS Wasp.

The Osprey has provided support in Iraq, racking up some 2000 flight hours over three months with a mission capable availability rate of 68.1% as of late January 2008. They are primarily used in Iraq's western Anbar province for routine cargo and troop movements, and also for riskier "aero-scout" missions. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, used one to fly around Iraq on Christmas Day, 2007, to visit troops. Presidential candidate Barack Obama also flew in Ospreys during his high profile 2008 tour of Iraq. The only major problem has been obtaining the necessary spare parts to maintain the aircraft. Minor problems included the engines wearing quicker than desired, on four occasions V-22s at forward bases were grounded until repairs could be made to the oil cooling systems, and on one occasion a V-22 was forced to make an emergency landing due to engine damage.


CV-22A : Air Force aircraft used as a transport from land bases.MV-22B : Basic US Marine Corps transport; original requirement for 552 (now 360). The Marine Corps is the lead service in the development of the V-22 Osprey. The Marine Corps variant, the MV-22B, is an assault transport for troops, equipment and supplies, capable of operating from ships or from expeditionary airfields ashore. It is replacing the Marine Corps CH-46E and CH-53D. As of March 2007, the Marines have activated three operational Osprey squadrons.

CV-22B : Operated by the Air Force for the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), will conduct long-range, special operations missions, and is equipped with extra fuel tanks. The Air Force officially accepted the CV-22 on 16 November 2006 in a ceremony conducted at Hurlburt Field in Northwest Florida.HV-22B : The planned, but not-yet-funded, United States Navy HV-22 will provide combat search and rescue, delivery and retrieval of special warfare teams along with fleet logistic support transport.


Notable accidents

From 1991 to 2000 there were four significant crashes during testing:

  • On 11 June 1991, a mis-wired flight control system led to two minor injuries when the left nacelle struck the ground while the aircraft was hovering 15 feet in the air, causing it to bounce and catch fire.
  • On 20 July 1992, a leaking gearbox led to a fire in the right nacelle, causing the aircraft to drop into the Potomac River in front of an audience of Congressmen and other government officials at Quantico, killing all seven on board and grounding the aircraft for 11 months.
  • On 8 April 2000, a V-22 loaded with Marines to simulate a rescue, attempted to land at Marana Northwest Regional Airport in Arizona; its right rotor stalled at 245 feet, it rolled over, crashed, and exploded, killing all nineteen on board.
  • On 11 December 2000, after a catastrophic hydraulic leak and subsequent instrument failure, a V-22 fell 1,600 feet into a forest in Jacksonville, North Carolina, killing all four aboard.

Since becoming operational in 2006, the V-22 has had seven other notable, but minor incidents.

Specifications (MV-22B)

Popular Culture

Two CV-22s (of only three in the USAF inventory at the time) were filmed in flight at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, in May 2006 for the 2007 Transformers film.

V-22s, particularly MV-22s play prominent roles in several novels by Dale Brown, most particularly, Hammerheads which features an MV-22 on the cover.

See also


  • Norton, Bill. Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, Tiltrotor Tactical Transport. Midland Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-85780-165-2.

External links

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