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Bell/Boeing V-22 Osprey

The V-22 Osprey is a medium lift, multi-mission, vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL), tilt-rotor aircraft developed by Bell Helicopter Textron and Boeing to fill joint service combat operational requirements for the year 2001 and beyond.

The V-22 operates as a helicopter when taking off and landing vertically. The nacelles rotate 90 degrees forward once airborne, converting the Osprey into a turboprop aircraft. It can provide V/STOL with a payload of 24 troops, or 6,000 pounds (2,722kg) of cargo, at 430 nautical miles (796km) combat range, or V/STOL with a payload of 8,300 pounds (3,765kg) of cargo for a range of 220 nautical miles (407km). The tilt-rotor aircraft is self-deployable world wide with a ferry range over 2,100 nautical miles (3,889km).

This very unique aircraft is available in three configurations for U.S. Joint Services Operational Requirements: the CV-22 for long-range special operations missions for the USAF's Special Operations Command, the MV-22 for combat assault and assault support for the U.S. Marine Corps, and the HV-22 for combat search and rescue, special warfare, and fleet logistic support. (Sea trials of the MV-22 have taken place and will be followed by Operation/Evaluation from September 1999 to May 2000.)


Bell XV-15 Tilt-Rotor

The XV-15 Tilt-Rotor testbed aircraft was designed by Bell Aircraft in the mid-1970s under a contract with NASA and the U.S. Army. It was capable of taking off and landing vertically like a helicopter and of flying horizontally when its "proprotors" were rotated forward and downward. NASA's Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA, and the Army's Air Mobility Laboratory cooperated in a program to obtain two aircraft for flight research. Ship #1 was given NASA number 702, and ship #2 was number 703. The first aircraft arrived at Ames on 23 March 1978.

After wind-tunnel testing in Ames' 40 x 80 foot wind-tunnel, the aircraft began its contractor flight tests at Ames on 23 April 1979. Bell, U.S. Army and Marine Corps pilots flew it on 140 separate missions over the next year before turning the aircraft over to Ames. That center, in turn, chose to perform the initial flight research at the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA, where aircraft number two began flight research with Dryden pilots on 3 October 1980, followed by aircraft number one (previously the wind-tunnel model) the following year.

The aircraft were powered by twin Lycoming T-53 turboshaft engines connected by a cross-shaft that drove two three-bladed, 25 foot diameter metal rotors. The engines and main transmissions were located in wingtip nacelles to minimize the operational loads on the cross-shaft system and, with the rotors, tilt as a single unit. For takeoff, the proprotors and their engines were used in the straight-up position where the thrust is directed downward. The XV-15 was then able to climb vertically into the air like a helicopter. In this VTOL mode, the vehicle could lift off and hover for approximately one hour. Once off the ground, the XV-15 had the ability to fly in one of two different modes. It could fly in a helicopter mode or an airplane mode. When operating as a conventional airplane, the XV-15 could cruise for more than two hours.

The successful flight research with the XV-15 Tilt-Rotor testbed led to the military's V-22 Osprey and to the possibility of using tilt-rotor aircraft as a solution to the problem of crowded airports and highways.

XV-15 image gallery »

Bell/Boeing V-22 Osprey

A V/STOL assault transport designed to supersede the aging/conventional large helicopters built by Boeing and Sikorsky, the V-22 Osprey is a tilt-rotor hybrid rotory/fixed-wing aircraft offering an excellent combination of payload and range. It can takeoff and land like a helicopter, but, once airborne, its blades can be rotated to convert the aircraft to a turboprop airplane capable of high-speed, high-altitude flight.

The V-22 Osprey is the first aircraft designed from the ground up to meet the needs of all four U.S. armed services. The aircraft can transport U.S. Marine Corps assault troops and cargo using its medium lift and vertical takeoff and landing (V/STOL) capabilities. It meets U.S. Navy requirements for combat search and rescue, fleet logistics support, and special warfare support.

Boeing is responsible for the fuselage, landing gear, digital avionics, electrical and hydraulic systems, performance and flying qualities. Boeing partner Bell Helicopter Textron is responsible for wing and nacelle, propulsion, rotor, empennage (complete tail system), ramp, overwing fairing and the dynamics.

The V-22 Osprey made is maiden flight on 19 March 1989. Since that time, the first and fifth prototypes have crashed, leaving only three aircraft for testing. The V-22's induction into active service is planned for 2000.

Service Requirements

  • U.S. Air Force (Special Operations Command)

    The Air Force SOF/USSOCOM has the most stringent mission requirement for the V-22. Due to the anticipated extended exposure to a high threat environment, the CV-22 will the capability to travel 500 nautical miles at or below 500 feet above ground level, locate a small landing zone, infiltrate and exfiltrate a team of 18 special operations forces and return to base. This must be done covertly at night and, if necessary, in adverse weather. The CV-22 will have enhanced survivability by virtue of the Electronic Warfare suite specific to the SOF mission as well as meeting the survivability standards identified for the "baseline" MV-22 weapons system. This V-22 variant is slated to replace the MH-53J and MH-60G and augment the MC-130 fleet in the USSOCOM Special Operations mission. (Required quantity: 30)

  • U.S. Marine Corps

    As a replacement for the CH-46E and CH-53D Marine Corps assault helicopters, the MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft is a V/STOL medium lift assault, self-deployment, and sustained land operations capable aircraft. Designated as the "baseline" variant, the MV-22 must provide combat assault transport of Marines in the initial assault waves and follow-on stages of amphibious operations and subsequent operations ashore. It must also be capable of supporting the following secondary mission tasks: combat assault transport of supplies and equipment, evacuations and maritime special operations, mobile forward area refueling and rearming operations, casualty evacuation, and tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP) operations. The aircraft must therefore be self-deployable, capable of handling 24 fully-equipped combat troops, capable of operationally lifting external loads up to 10,000 lbs and able to operate in adverse weather, day or night from air capable ships. (Required quantity: 360)

  • U.S. Navy

    The United States Navy has a requirement for a specially configured V-22 variant known as the HV-22. These will be used for shipborne combat search and rescue and fleet logistics support. As of 1999, detailed requirements have not yet been established. (Required quantity: 48)

The U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy require that the V-22 be compatible with below-decks stowage, flight deck elevators, flight deck edge clearance for the wheels, control island clearance for the rotors, rapid turn-around times, and the limited availability of maintenance facilities on aircraft carriers or air capable ships. The Osprey's airframe footprint, tail configuration, and stowed dimensions are all affected by these requirements. Of these, the most defining characteristic is the requirement to operate from a launch and recovery spot located next to the control tower or island of a helicopter carrier. The clearances to the island structure on one side (12 feet 8 inches) and the deck edge on the other side (5 feet) define a very precise limitation on overall wingspan and available rotor diameter.

The V-22's tilt-rotor design can also be adapted to missions not specified by current service requirements. With its speed, range and internal cargo capacity, the Osprey could be adapted to meet numerous other missions including aerial refueling, medical evacuation, and executive/VIP transport.


Better Than A Helicopter

The V-22 provides vertical takeoff and hover performance similar to a conventional helicopter. It can takeoff from small, unimproved, or confined areas and still fly long-range missions. Because of the combination of high speed, long-range and large payload capacity, it offers the warfighter significant productivity increases compared to a conventional helicopter.

Better Than An Airplane

The V-22 has the efficiencies of a twin turboprop without the need to takeoff or land on a runway. It can operate from small unimproved sites or a large variety of surface ships and still insert combat troops and equipment over long ranges while hovering over a landing zone.

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Related Links

Air Force Technology Today

Boeing's V-22 Osprey Site

Bell Helicopter's V-22 Site

U.S. Navy's V-22 Osprey Site

V-22 Osprey (Wikipedia)

Dark and Deep

How the V-22 Osprey Works

V-22 Continues to Fail

U.S. Special Operations Command


U.S. Navy

U.S. Marines

Professional Loadmaster Association (PLA)

Loadmaster Forum

Cargo Aircraft Designations

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