The Marine Corps plans to stand up its first squadron of V-22 Ospreys by December
2003 and begin operational evaluation by November of the following year. By
then, however, the tilt rotor aircraft will have gone through further flight
and de-icing tests, before pilots take the plane out to sea.
The goal is to give pilots enough time to become well acquainted with the aircraft
before the operational evaluation, said Osprey Program Manager Marine Col. Dan
“[We are] two years away from deploying. By that time, we’ll have
pilots with a lot of experience on that plane before they ever take it out to
a ship,” Schultz said.
The V-22 is expected to join the fleet in December 2005, the earliest it can
enter combat, Schultz said.
There will be eight crews (a total of 16 pilots) once the V-22 goes into a
five-month operational evaluation. But program officials insist that deadlines
are not a top priority. “The V-22 is event, and not schedule, driven,”
said one Marine official.
Once OP EVAL is completed, six V-22s will continue to run through flight tests
while the remainder will go to VMMT04—the V-22 training squadron, said
Ward Carroll, from V-22 public affairs.
Osprey 8 was to continue with High Rate of Descent (HROD) testing. But program
officials and engineers believe they now have a handle on Vortex Ring State
(VRS). That led to a decision to skip a second round of testing. VRS occurs
when a rapidly descending helicopter flies through its own downwash and becomes
“We have a grasp of [VRS] now,” Carroll said. “[There is]
nothing we don’t understand.”
Warning lights and alarms will give V-22 pilots 18 seconds to react before
going into VRS, Schultz said. That warning gives them enough time to begin tilting
the rotors to fly out of VRS.
“The V-22 is much less susceptible to Vortex Ring State [than a helicopter],”
Osprey 8 now will have to wait until a test group determines what to replace
the HROD tests with. The group currently is looking at other test options, Carroll
Osprey 10, at the moment, is undergoing mission software testing. Osprey 21
is going through night-formation flight testing and austere landing tests. Osprey
22 is in mission software and austere landing testing. Osprey 23 (CV-22)—the
Air Force Special Operations Command version—is undergoing operational
testing as a training asset, Carroll said.
Osprey numbers 11 through 20 have been delivered to the Marine Corps and are
awaiting Block A changes. Those aircraft are flown at the New River Marine Corps
Air Station, North Carolina and other Marine Corps bases, a Boeing spokesman
Aircraft number 30 through 44 are in assembly and awaiting Block A changes.
Boeing and Textron’s Bell Helicopter subsidiary are the prime contractors
for the V-22.
Issues with hydraulic lines rubbing against electrical lines also have been
resolved, Schultz said. Past crashes had been linked to burst hydraulic lines.
Those lines no longer touch each other. The lines also were reconfigured to
allow them to fold up, without causing any problems, when the V-22’s wings
Schultz said the hydraulic glitches have been fixed.
Months of testing have shown that the V-22 can carry external payloads, deliver
cargo and land on an amphibious assault ship.
Lt. Col. Kevin Gross, Marine Corps chief government test pilot, said landing
the aircraft on the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) was an “incredible experience.”
The Osprey was quite stable and easy to handle, especially in the wind, he said.
Concerns about the V-22 hanging over the deck edge were “almost not apparent,”
In a recent external payload test, a V-22 lifted almost 11,000 pounds, Schultz
said. However, some work still needs to be done with mounting external payloads
because of the high speed with which the V-22 can operate. In one test, the
front window of a Humvee was shattered.
“[It] can’t take a Humvee over 200 knots,” Schultz said.
Osprey 24 will begin anti-icing and de-icing tests this winter in Nova Scotia.
Tests will take place over the course of two winters.
Engineers will test an anti-icing heat system and a second system to shake
ice from the plane’s wings, Carroll said.
Tests must show that the V-22 can fly into high altitudes (up to 25,000 feet)
during winter conditions. The tests, however, were originally not to take place
until after the first squadron was stood up.
“I’m not really happy [with the] fact we [were] about to field
an airplane ... that can fly to 25,000 feet that didn’t have a de-icing
system,” Schultz said. “We changed that. We dedicated one full plane
[to de-icing testing]”
Steve Grohsmeyer, a Boeing test pilot with almost 500 hours flying time on
the V-22, said refueling tests, with both the KC-130 and KC-10, have gone well.
Boeing will do additional refueling tests this fall, he added.
The V-22 will eventually have a retractable fuel node, said Grohsmeyer, who
has been with the program for almost eight years.
At Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, Osprey 9 (CV-22), a U.S.
Special Operations Command Osprey, will undergo countermeasure tests with SIRFC
(Suite of Integrated RF Countermeasures) and DIRCM (Directional Infrared Countermeasures)
beginning in October. The tests are expected to run through March 2004.
Once those tests are finished, Osprey 9 will stand down for Block 10 (DIRCM
and LRIP SIRFC) modifications. The second part of SIRFC and DIRCM testing will
start in October 2004 and run through April 2006, said Carroll.
SIRFC testing will be done on Edwards Range Complex and China Lake’s
Electronic Combat Range, in California, and the Nellis Test and Training Range,
in Nevada. The bulk of the testing will be split between China Lake and Nellis,
DIRCM testing will be mostly done at Edwards, he added.
Tests began earlier this year on the CV-22’s multi-mode (terrain tracking)
radar. Carroll said the tests have gone “extremely well, having completed
level terrain as well as low and high isolated peak testing.”
SIRFC gives pilots advanced warning to allow them to fly around threats. DIRCM
is a missile detection program that jams the radio frequency of an incoming
missile and directs it away from the aircraft.
“It’s like hitting tennis balls against a wall,” Schultz
Engineers at Edwards have also been “wringing out the terrain following
warnings and cautions,” Carroll added.
Weather-related tests also planned to address issues such as “brown out,”
“Brown out” occurs when a hovering aircraft kicks up large amounts
of dust and debris, he added. The dust can obscure a pilot’s view of the
landing zone. But the V-22’s ability to “cant its thrust line and
its advanced displays will mitigate the problems due to brown out,” Carroll
Composite materials are being used on the V-22 to deflect heat, and engine
suppressors will contain heat coming off of the engines to diminish the Osprey’s
A lightweight prototype paint, designed to give the V-22 “unprecedented
levels” of IR signature is being used on Osprey 22, Schultz said.
“[It] takes the heat signature down to an unprecedented level,”
The paint sells for about $7,000 a gallon.
In July 2004, a V-22 will begin the first in a series of tests using an electric
hoist, to examine its search and rescue capability.
Program officials are also looking at weapons to provide defensive capabilities
for the V-22. However, these are still in the concept stages said one Marine
Schultz said he has been pleased by the V-22’s performance during flight
tests. Although he said it is too early to call it a victory, he did say that
what officials are seeing is “very encouraging.”
The aircraft has been put through hell, he said. “This is not a fluffy
“The V-22 has met its key performance parameters,” he added.
Schultz predicted that when the first V-22 is fielded, it would be the “last
time a helicopter will ever do combat, and search and rescue operations.”
The V-22 returned to flight testing May 29, 2002, after being grounded for
almost 17 months. Two crashes that took the lives of 30 Marines almost spelled
the end for the V-22 program. Congress and the Defense Department put the program
into a holding pattern as teams worked out the problems.
Schultz was scheduled to appear before the Defense Acquisition Board on July
31 to discuss increasing the number of V-22s to be produced, refining the budget
estimates and re-examining the increased capabilities the services want for
interoperability with the Joint Tactical Radio System and Link 16 (tactical
His meeting with the board comes almost two months after former-Undersecretary
of Defense Edward C. “Pete” Aldridge Jr.—once a critic of
the program—wrote that the “program’s progress is sufficient
to consider increasing the production rate above the minimum sustaining rate.”
That rate was set at 11 per year by Congress and the Pentagon after the investigation
into the fatal crashes.
“We have to start looking at how to ramp up,” Schultz said.
Plans call for 11 V-22s to be produced in 2005 and 20 in 2006. Schultz said
he hopes to see production rates increase to 40 a year when the Marine Corps,
Navy and the Special Operations Command begin purchasing the aircraft.
The Marine Corps is planning to buy 360 V-22 to perform amphibious assault
and land operations. The Navy will buy 48 for search and rescue, and the U.S.
Special Operations Command plans to buy 50 for long-range special operations.
The V-22 costs $68.7 million each, Schultz said. However, he hopes to reach
a target cost of $58 million by fiscal year 2010.