The Air Force Special Operations Command plans to begin CV-22 crew training
in 2005. The 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.,
already has one motion-based, full flight simulator and one fixed-base, flight
training device, which is undergoing modifications.
Bell Helicopter is the simulator prime contractor. The trainer integrates a
representative CV-22 cockpit with the FlightSafety International Vital 9 visual
system. The advanced visual system will enable CV-22 crews to fly over simulated
terrain in all weather conditions, said company officials. CV-22 and Marine
MV-22 simulators will be identical, except for SOF-specific cockpit details
and threat environments.
Two more simulators (one full flight simulator and one fixed-base flight training
device) at the Air Force schoolhouse will be ready for training between 2007
and 2011. A cabin part task trainer for rear-cabin aircrew will be available
for training by 2006. Each operational squadron will have a flight-training
device, and all simulators will have networking capability to rehearse multi-player
The CV-22 is still under development, but several enhancements are under consideration.
A turreted gun to supplement the Pave Low-like ramp gun remains an unfunded
requirement, said program officials. Helmet displays and other improvements
may be incorporated in later Osprey production batches.
A favorable Defense Acquisition Board review that revived Marine Corps hopes
for the MV-22 tilt rotor likewise saved Air Force plans for the CV-22 Special
While the V-22 Integrated Test Team at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.,
continues joint-service development testing, CV-22 work at Edwards Air Force
Base, Calif., focuses on technology unique to special operations forces.
The Air Force Special Operations Command plans to acquire 50 CV-22s between
2006 and 2017. However, full production rates for the tilt rotor are still to
A successful CV-22 initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) from
April to September 2006 will enable the first of five Air Force Special Operations
squadrons to become operational by the first quarter of fiscal year 2009. The
initial capability will include six tilt rotors, with 1.5 fully trained crews
per aircraft and support assets.
With the speed and range of a turboprop and the vertical takeoff and landing
performance of a helicopter, the tilt rotor promises to infiltrate, exfiltrate
and resupply SOF over long distances in a single night.
Original requirements for the special operations tilt rotor were shaped by
the 1980 aborted mission to rescue U.S. hostages in Iran. A rescue force with
RH-53D helicopters would have required 35 hours to evacuate the hostages with
two daytime hidesites and the support of C-130 and C-141 transports. CV-22s,
in the same scenario, could potentially do the job in eight hours, with a smaller,
less detectable force.
Though CV-22 payload and range benchmarks have changed during development,
the tilt rotor advantages remain clear. Simplified comparisons between the Bell
Boeing CV-22 and the Sikorsky MH-53M Pave Low IV helicopter figure the tilt
rotor will carry twice as much, twice as fast, four to five times farther. Carrying
a typical force of 12 SOF operators, the Osprey is expected to fly 525 nautical
miles, hover over a mountainous landing zone, and, should the mission be aborted,
return with troops aboard. With the same load, the Pave Low reaches just 130
AFSOC now has 35 MH-53M Pave Low IV helicopters in two operational Special
Operations squadrons and one training squadron. The 50 new CV-22s will outfit
four operational squadrons and a training unit. With the arrival of the tilt
rotor, AFSOC intends to phase out its Paves from 2009 to 2014.
The Osprey was sized to Navy amphibious assault ships and reinforced Marine
rifle companies. As a result, the cabin of the tilt rotor holds just 24 troop
seats, versus 27 in the MH-53M. The Osprey cabin also rules out Humvees and
some other large internal loads that fit the SOF helicopter.
Bell Boeing engineers calculate the reduced acoustic signature and higher penetrating
speed of the CV-22 will give enemy air defenders one-eighth the audible warning
time of a helicopter. Integrated infrared engine exhaust suppressors should
cut the lock-on area available to shoulder-fired missiles 95 percent more than
Risky, politically sensitive SOF missions generally are flown by single aircraft
or small formations at very low altitudes, usually at night and often in adverse
weather. For difficult mission profiles, the CV-22 introduces a new generation
of integrated avionics more capable and supportable than even the updated Pave
Low IV suite. Testing at Edwards Air Force Base is to prove the mission electronics
of the Special Operations tilt rotor in low-altitude penetrating flight profiles.
Two MV-22 crashes froze the Osprey program in late 2000. A developmental flight
test program resumed at Patuxent River in May 2002. CV-22 flight tests resumed
at Edwards in September 2002.
The test team at Patuxent River has five Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP)
and two Engineering Manufacturing and Development (EMD) MV-22s with modified
hydraulic and flight control systems. The two CV-22s at Edwards are EMD aircraft
7 and 9 with safety modifications and AFSOC-specific hardware.
The first CV-22 prototype at Edwards began terrain following radar flights
in April and logged the 500th Osprey flight hour since the tilt rotor resumed
testing in May 2002. “It’s a joint program with give and take,”
says CV-22 development lead Lt. Col. Earnie Tavares. “The general philosophy
is Edwards does CV-unique testing. Patuxent River does the basic aircraft.”
The basic airframe, engines, dynamics and avionics architecture of the Marine
MV-22 and Air Force CV-22 are nearly identical (Production CV-22 noses have
local reinforcement to carry the terrain following radar). The objective CV-22
Block 10 configuration differs from the MV-22 Block A, primarily in mission
electronics and fuel provisions. The Special Operations Osprey integrates terrain-following
radar, advanced radar and infrared countermeasures, and secure digital communications
for the crew up front and SOF team in back. The CV-22 cockpit has a seat and
displays for a crew chief/systems operator, and it gives the pilots dedicated
electronic warfare displays and independent digital maps.
Compared with the basic MV-22, the CV-22 adds 4,000 pounds of fuel in eight
wing cells and another 2,150 pounds in the aft right sponson. Some MV-22s in
MEUSOCs (Marine Expeditionary Units, Special Operations Capable) will have the
same extended-range provisions, and both the Air Force and Marines have agreed
on a crashworthy 435 gallon auxiliary cabin tank. Both the CV-22 and MV-22 are
air-refuelable. From a rolling takeoff overloaded to 60,500 pounds, the Air
Force tilt rotor will self-deploy 2,700 nautical miles with a single refueling.
Unlike helicopters crammed aboard jet transports, the special operations tilt
rotor should arrive ready to fly without reassembly.
The U.S. Special Operations Command now funds CV-22 research and development.
Production and fielding costs will be split about 85 percent to the Air Force
and 15 percent to SOCOM.
The testing office includes about 25 Air Force representatives, both military
and civilian, and it will acquire six to 10 more in the next year. AFSOC also
has contributed one Pave Low pilot and one MC-130 Combat Talon pilot to the
V-22 “integrated product team” to exploit their operational perspectives.
Retired AFSOC crewmembers also fill several civilian slots.
The CV-22 tests are flown by a detachment from the 18th Flight Test Squadron,
home based at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Ultimately, two of the four operational CV-22
squadrons will be based at Hurlburt.
Joint testing results from the MV-22 are generalized to the CV-22. That enabled
Marine and Air Force pilots to evaluate EMD Ospreys in SOF-relevant maneuvers,
including night formation flights, tanker hookups and confined area landings.
Troops fast-roped from the V-22 rear ramp and rode a special insertion and extraction
rig under the aircraft. The operational test saw EMD Ospreys in helicopter mode
fly at 10 knots 10 feet off the water to deploy SOF boats.
CV-22 work at Edwards is focused on low-altitude terrain flying with the Raytheon
AN/APQ-186 multi-mode radar. Derived from the APQ-174 radar on Army MH-47E and
MH-60K special operations helicopters, the 186 radar will allow safe flight
down to a 100-foot programmed terrain clearance at night, in adverse weather,
and in high-threat environments. The radar is not tied to the flight controls
but provides pilot cues on cockpit multi-function displays. (A long-studied
helmet display awaits block-improved V-22s.)
Terrain following radar cues can also be superimposed over thermal imagery
from the Raytheon AN/AAQ-27 forward looking infrared sensor. Common to the MV-22,
the new-generation FLIR uses a mid-infrared staring focal plane array able to
generate clear imagery in humid environments.
EMD Aircraft No. 7 flew its first daylight terrain-following exercise at Edwards
Air Force Base in early April. The tilt rotor covered flat terrain in both helicopter
and airplane modes and at altitudes down to 100 feet. “Overall, the airplane
handles like the simulator,” noted Boeing CV-22 program manager Mike Rolecki.
Contractor and Air Force pilots had flown terrain-following simulations linking
the company’s cockpit, avionics, and flight control laboratories. Upcoming
tests will take the real aircraft over rolling and peaked terrain with a vertical
rise from 500 to 5,000 feet.
While EMD Osprey No. 7 proves the SOF-critical radar, Aircraft No. 9 has been
more extensively remanufactured to CV-22 standards with the suite of integrated
radio frequency countermeasures (SIRFC), multi-mission advanced tactical terminal,
and provisions for directed infrared countermeasures (DIRCM). Anechoic chamber
tests showed SIRFC compatible with other aircraft systems, and the second CV-22
prototype will resume flight testing in June.
The ITT Avionics AN/ALQ-211(V)2 electronic warfare suite gives the Air Force
tilt rotor both passive radar warning and active radar jamming capabilities.
The passive portion of the electronic warfare system works with the GPS-augmented
inertial navigator and the EFW/Elbit digital map to steer special operations
crews around threats. The RF jammer prioritizes threats and instantly applies
the optimum radiated power and jamming techniques to defeat pulse, continuous
wave, Pulse Doppler, and monopulse radar threats. Flight tests with the RF countermeasures
suite will stretch from October 2003 through March 2004 at China Lake, California.
The integrated RF countermeasures also provide the processing power to manage
the entire CV-22 aircraft survivability suite. SIRFC interfaces with four AAR-54
missile warning receivers and five AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispensers (three
more dispensers than the Marine MV-22) with 150 mixed flares, chaff cartridges,
and RF decoys.
To counter multi-band infrared threats, AFSOC flies the Northrop Grumman AN/ALQ-24
Nemesis DIRCM on MC-130 and AC-130 turboprops. The same laser-based IR jammer
system will be integrated into the EW suite of the CV-22. The small-aircraft
system uses AN/AAR-54 precision missile warning receivers to point a single
turreted laser directly at incoming missiles. Northrop Grumman and Bell Helicopter
finished laboratory integration testing and will install the system on Aircraft
No. 9 in the first quarter of 2004.
The multi-mission advanced tactical terminal gives the CV-22 crew a secure
UHF receiver for intelligence reports. The CV-22 communications suite includes
four Rockwell DCS-2000 VHF/UHF radios, two more than the MV-22. The software-programmable
radios establish line-of-sight and satellite voice and data links.
Build and Field
Despite a favorable review from the Defense Acquisition Board, tilt rotor production
hovers at 11 aircraft per year, pending a favorable Milestone III decision in
2005. With full production authorization, the notional rate surges to 24 per
year in 2006 and then goes even higher to field 360 MV-22s, 50 Air Force CV-22s
and 48 Navy HV-22s in a timely fashion. Boeing figures it can turn out four
Osprey fuselages per month.
AFSOC now expects from two to five CV-22s a year from 2006 to 2017. “It
maybe more cost effective to make them sooner,” said Tavares.
Fuselages for two production representative test vehicles (aircraft 1005 and
1006) are already in the new Boeing assembly facility outside Philadelphia.
Bell produces V-22 wings and assembles the aircraft for delivery at Amarillo,
Texas. The CV-22 test vehicle should arrive at Edwards in April and October
2005, initially to train evaluation pilots and then fly the IOT&E program.
After testing, the first production CV-22s will become the primary training
aircraft inventory of the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland, in late
2006. The next two production aircraft will arrive at Kirtland that same year
to stand-up the SOF-specific mission qualification schoolhouse.
In contrast to Marine MV-22s with crews of three, Special Operations Ospreys
will follow Pave Low tradition and fly with four crewmembers—two pilots,
a crewchief and a qualified gunner. Initially, AFSOC plans to select CV-22 pilots
from its experienced Pave Low and Combat Talon crews. Helicopter ratings will
not be required for the tilt rotor but fixed-wing pilots may need some helicopter
As experience with the aircraft grows, aircrew candidates will come through
the usual Air Force source selection process. CV-22 pilot training will start
with MV-22 qualification at the VMMT-204 joint schoolhouse at Marine Corps Air
Station New River, N.C. Full combat mission qualification training in the CV-22
will be conducted by the 58th Special Operations Wing.
AFSOC has not yet identified individual Osprey squadrons. However, it plans
four operational squadrons, two within the 16th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt
Field plus one in Pacific Command and one in European Command at locations to
be determined. The training squadron with six CV-22s stands up at Kirtland beginning
in 2006. The first operational squadron will be established at the 16th SOW
in 2007, followed by PACOM in 2010 and EUCOM in 2012. The second squadron at
Hurlburt stands up in 2014, with 12 primary and one backup aircraft.
Each operational CV-22 squadron at Hurlburt will have a primary mission aircraft
inventory of 12 CV-22s and one backup inventory aircraft. The PACOM squadron
will be assigned eight primary mission aircraft and one backup aircraft. EUCOM
will have seven primary aircraft and one backup. A single CV-22 test aircraft
will also be assigned to the 18th Flight Test Squadron at Hurlburt in fiscal