V-22 Osprey Successfully Employed as an Aerial Refueling Tanker
The Bell Helicopter-Boeing Co. consortium that manufacturers the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey successfully demonstrated the aircraft's ability to be used as an aerial refueling tanker last month.
In a test carried out over north Texas in August, a V-22 equipped with a prototype aerial refueling system deployed, held steady and retracted a refueling drogue with an F/A-18C and an F/A-18D Hornet as test subjects.
"It is a great capability. Everybody wants air refueling," said Bill Schroeder, a spokesman for the Bell Boeing V-22 program. "The military has been interested in this for a long time."
While the tiltrotor aircraft — which flies horizontally and takes off and lands vertically — tested its refueling capabilities with the jet fighters, Schroeder said the hoses are universal, and the Osprey could refuel any other aircraft, so long as it was going at the proper speed.
Schroeder stressed that no fuel was actually transferred during the test, but the V-22 was able to deploy and retract its refueling as the fighters flew behind.
The test was funded solely by Bell Boeing, said Schroeder.
"There has been no government help to this point. So what we did, we listened to our customers and we're responding to their need," he told National Defense Sept 5.
While the program is still in its infancy, the company plans to take the data collected to the aircraft's customers, primarily the Marine Corps and Air Force Special Operations Command. There is no timetable for future tests, or potential deployment of the capability yet, he said, but the company plans to do a fuel transfer test in the future.
"What we wanted to do this time is get a proof of concept going, and then we wanted to get together and work with the government to figure out the way forward," Schroeder said.
In a statement, Vince Tobin, Bell Boeing's V-22 program director, said the V-22's new capability would greatly enhance its versatility.
“Adding aerial refueling tanker capability to the V-22 will enable operators to execute a wider variety of missions with greater flexibility and autonomy,” said Tobin. “This will save time and money by maximizing the efficient use of aircraft and personnel.”
The V-22's refueling capability is one that Bell Boeing also hopes tout to potential international customers as it markets the aircraft overseas, Schroeder said. All militaries have an interest in aerial refueling, he added.