The V-22 "Osprey" tiltrotor aircraft was selected as the medium lift replacement aircraft for the US Marine Corps in February, 1995. Marine Corps Headquarters identified the need to replace it's CH-46 medium lift helicopter fleet as early as 1969.
In 1981 Secretary of the Navy (John Lehman) and Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) officials observed the Army/NASA/Bell XV-15 tiltrotor demonstration at the Paris Air Show. SecNav informed the Marine Corps he would not support a helicopter for the MLR(HXM) replacement solution but would support an advanced technology solution. Further, DDR&E suggested the Navy and Air Force pool resources and develop the advanced technology solution to their several VTOL aircraft requirements including Special Ops, Assault Support, Combat SAR, and ASW. The Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force agreed (MOA) and the Army asked to get in as the lead service. The funding rules were changed to require a Mission Needs Statement, which was consolidated into the Air Force's Tactical Air Forces Statement of Need. The program was initiated by OSD as a Joint Army, Navy/Marine Corps, and Air Force development, with the Army as the lead service. A Marine Corps officer was assigned as the Program Manager. The Deputy Secretary of Defense instructed the services to provide $1.5M to fund the project. Milestone 0 was approved and concept exploration phase began with the development of a Prototype aircraft. The external organizations, DoD and DoN, were driving the program.
In 1982 the program was named "Joint Advanced Vertical Lift Aircraft (JVX). An interservice MOU was staffed through the services Headquarters and the Department of Aviation recommended CMC approval after a thorough review and analysis to insure it meets MLR requirements. The Marine Corps having the largest requirement (550+ aircraft) was established as the baseline configuration and all other requirements as "variants." The Army lost interest because of other competing helicopter funding requirements. Unable to do both, they relinquished lead service position to the Navy, but continued interest in the program.
In December 1982, the Navy was assigned executive management of the V-22 (then called JVX) program. The Marine Corps Department of Aviation at HQMC, with the basic requirement, took oversight responsibilities for the program. This included the orchestration of all studies, Operational Requirements Documents (ORD), Cost and Operational Effectiveness Analysis (COEAs), and coordination/communication responsibility with all external agencies including DoN, DoD, Congress, FAA, NASA, and foreign countries interested in the baseline aircraft or the variants. The Department of Aviation assisted in the development of a Joint Services Operational Requirements (JSOR) document which established the variants as Army (Special Electronic missions), Air Force (Special Ops & Combat Search Air Rescue), Marine Corps (Assault Support Lift), and Navy (Combat SAR). The Tactical Air Force Statement of Need was reviewed and updated in the Department of Aviation. Milestone I decision was made to go for Configuration Definition.
In 1983, the Navy through NAVAIRSYSCOM contracted Bell-Boeing to develop the preliminary Design for Full Scale Development. The Army dropped the Special Electronics requirement and withdrew from the development of the JVX to concentrate on the LH, but agreed to buy 200+ Marine versions for combat support.
During 1985, the Department of Aviation continued to update requirement documents. Each update resulted from a study and analysis conducted by the branches in the Aviation Department and the counterparts in M&RA, PP&O, R&P, MCCDC, and the Fleet. Often these were formal studies directed by External Agencies, e.g., Congress/DoD/ DoN. All missions and functions were reviewed, updated and then reflected, with Joint requirements, in a JORD update. NAVAIRSYSCOM (the Marine Corps' acquisition agent) issued an RFP for Full Scale Development (FSD) and the program was named the V-22 "Osprey".
Milestone II was passed in 1986 and funding continued into Full Scale Development (FSD) with the approval of the revised JSOR. The JVX program entered Full-Scale Development (FSD) in May 1986 following a Milestone II review by the Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council (DSARC), the forerunner of the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB). An FSD contract was signed with Bell-Boeing. A fixed price contract for FSD of Joint Service V-22 was awarded. Bell/Boeing began preliminary design studies on an ASW variant.
The Department of Aviation continued to coordinate the program through 1987. The Army withdrew from the procurement commitment. Bell/Boeing conducted budgetary cost estimates for the SV-22, and commenced a V-22 Executive Transport variant (VV-22) feasibility study. The US Special Ops Command (USSOCCOM) was formed and took acquisition responsibility for the SOF variant CV-22 from the Air Force.
DC/S Aviation oversight and coordination continued during 1988 with a SV-22 ASW feasibility study and CV-22 fuel tank engineering investigation. The Executive Transport study was completed.
The first of six planned FSD-prototype aircraft accomplished first flight in March 1989. In April 1989, the Secretary of Defense canceled the V-22 program in the FY90 Amended President's Budget, citing affordability reasons. Through the ensuing eighteen months, V-22 program planning remained in a turbulent state as discussions regarding continued funding proceeded between Congress and the DoD. Funding and work on design studies continued while support for continuation of the program grew in Congress. Letters from Congressmen and the formation of the Tiltrotor Coalition was instrumental in keeping the program funded. Bell/Boeing completed contract studies on the AS variant and continued the fuel tank engineering investigation.
As studies and investigations continued between 1989 and 1991, Action Officers at the Department of Aviation pressed for acquisition funding. They ensured that the right decision-makers were briefed on both the combat capability of the aircraft as well as its progress in the production process.
In 1991, Aircraft Number 5, which was designated for SOF OPEVAL, crashed. The developmental testing program of the FSD prototype aircraft also encountered difficulty. The FSD prototype aircraft were determined to exceed the specified weight, resulting in an aircraft that failed to meet several range and payload requirements of the approved Joint Services Operational Requirement (JSOR).
Bell/Boeing completed tanker kit, turret gun system, and RF jammer engineering investigations in 1992. DepSecDef directed that the V-22 compete with helicopters and DC/S Aviation issued a new MLR requirement for airspeed of 180 Kts. Aircraft Number 4 crashed at Quantico. The USSOCCOM issued an MV-X Operational Requirements Document. In October 1992, the Navy terminated the FSD airframe contract with Bell-Boeing and awarded a letter contract to Bell-Boeing to begin Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD). Bell/Boeing was placed under cost plus EMD contract for the MLR version.
The new Administration that took office in 1993 was supportive of the V-22. The V-22 was funded in the FYDP for the first time in four years. USD(A) directed the V-22 program to continue as a joint effort and directs SOCCOM to participate. HQMC withdraws the 180kt restriction. A JROC approved the MV-X ORD but deferred decision on MLR. Congress passed the FY94 Defense Authorization/Appropriation Bills, both with funds identified for the continuation of V-22 into production. The Appropriations Bill added funds for restart of the CV-22.
Preliminary Design Reviews were completed in 1994. JROC approved the MLR ORD and recommended a Joint program for MLR/MV-X. After two separate COEAs the V-22 passed the JROC. DAB reviewed and approved MSII+contracts for EMD and CV-22 design.
In December 1994, following an extended period of review of operational requirements and medium-lift alternatives, the DAB held a Milestone Il+ review, formally approving the EMD program. The restructured EMD program called for: continued developmental testing of two of the remaining FSD-prototype aircraft; design and development of four EMD aircraft incorporating sufficient weight reduction and other improvements as needed to comply with the approved operational requirements; and testing of three EMD aircraft.
MS-II+, Low Rate of Initial Production was started in 1995 with a $1 Billion DoN funding cap. Full Rate of production in the year 2000 was projected, with IOC in the Fleet in FY01.
The first of the EMD aircraft, aircraft Number 7, accomplished first flight in December 1996.
In April 1997, the DAB authorized the first lot of Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP). In addition, decision authority for further low-rate and full-rate production decisions was delegated to the Secretary of the Navy.
An MV-22 Osprey was delivered to Bell Helicopter Textron's Arlington, Texas, facility to be remanufactured into the CV-22, the Air Force version of the tiltrotor aircraft in 1999. This aircraft, which was a representative of future production models, was a flight test vehicle. MV-22 Number 9 was one of four engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) Marine Corps Ospreys that had been undergoing flight tests at the Naval Air Weapons Center-Aircraft Division (NAWC-AD) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Ten Air Force managers from Aeronautical Systems Center were assigned to the Navy facility, where the aircraft was being procured. The managers supported the procurement of 50 CV-22s for the Air Force.
The MV-22 was stripped down and rebuilt to the CV-22 specifications. Differences in the CV-22 were in the production wiring and all CV-22-unique systems. The Air Force acquired the Ospreys to replace its fleet of MH-53J Pave Low helicopters used to insert and extract special operations forces covertly from hostile areas. The Air Force version of the Osprey included a Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures (SIRFC), which included an active jammer. SIRFC was designed to geolocate threats using its missile warning receivers, as well as incorporate real-time intelligence from a multi-mission advanced tactical terminal. All of this information was shown to the pilot on a digital map. The idea was to get in and out undetected, but if the aircraft was detected, to have a survivable aircraft. All of the critical areas were hardened against ballistic attack, and there would be a chaff-and-flare dispense capability.
At Hurlburt Field, Florida, the V-22 Osprey flew overhead during an orientation flight for Lt. Gen. Clay Bailey, a commander of Air Force Special Operations Command in 1999. The Osprey was to undergo a critical operational evaluation to determine its readiness to join the fleet. The Multi-Service Operational Test Team responsible for the testing was comprised of Air Force and Marine Corps pilots, aircrew, maintenance personnel, operations analysts and flight engineers. During its test period at Hurlburt Field, the team evaluated the Osprey's interoperability with Special Operations Forces and its compatibility with airfield assets, resources and special equipment.
By December 1999, the V-22 government and industry Integrated Test Team had concluded successful sea trials for the engineering and manufacturing development MV-22 aircraft aboard two amphibious ships, the USS Saipan and the USS Tortuga.
During the January-February sea trials period which was conducted aboard the LHA class ship, USS Saipan, the MV-22 completed over 350 landings and tests to determine its suitability for operations aboard large deck amphibious ships, as well as all of its required maintenance and non-flying tests. While on the USS Saipan, the pilots established parameters for wind conditions for six helicopter landing spots, executed 260 day and night vertical launches and 269 recoveries over these landing spots, and performed nine short take-offs. As part of the external loads requirements, the MV-22 lifted a 4,000 lb. netted load on a single point hook and, for the first time aboard ship, a 6,300 lb. High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) on a dual point hook.
The next milestone was operational evaluation, the final report card for the MV-22. During this seven-month evaluation, which began in October 1999, the MV-22 received a grade on whether it was operationally suitable and effective for fleet introduction. The aircraft used in the EMD sea trials were the test birds. However, the aircraft that was operationally evaluated were the first lot of low rate initial production MV-22s.
The V-22 Osprey arrived at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico in March 2000 to begin operational testing. The V-22 Multi-service Operation Test Team tested the US Marine Corps version of the tiltrotor aircraft. The Air Force version of the tiltrotor aircraft, the CV-22, was tentatively scheduled to undergo operational testing in 2002. The major difference between the Air Force and Marine version of the aircraft was the avionics package. The CV-22 has a four-person crew, consisting of two pilots and two flight engineers. The CV-22 was proposed as eventually replacing the MH-53s and some MC-130s in the Air Force inventory.
The US Navy, on behalf of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), awarded Bell-Boeing a modification in March 2000 to the existing EMD contract initiating the first phase of a pre-planned product improvement program for the CV-22. The Block 10 program was to add eight new features to the Special Operations Forces CV-22s, of which five aircraft were to be delivered to Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) in 2003.
The upgrade included an advanced directed infrared countermeasures system (DIRCM) as well as upgrades to the cockpit and cabin to provide improvements to crew and passenger convenience and provide better situational awareness. Block 10 would also double the capacity of the forward firing flare and chaff dispenser and add laser detection. The DIRCM system utilizes advanced infrared sensor and two turreted lasers to confuse infrared missiles drawing them off their target.
In May 2000, a combination of budget cuts, cost saving measures that had not produced expected results and changes in the buy plan pushed the V-22 Osprey above expected costs by as much as $10 million per aircraft. The annual purchases of both the Air Force CV-22 and Marine Corps MV-22 were expected to be reduced in the 2002 budget, while the total buy was spread out over more years. This raised CV-22 per unit costs to $62.1 million, $9.9 million above the last estimate but provided short-term financial relief for the program.
Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) of the MV-22 Osprey resumed on 5 June 2000, at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, California. OPEVAL was designed to validate the aircrafts tactical application in support of Marine Corps missions and was to be flown by the Multi-Service Operational Test Team (MOTT) pilots. The MV-22s OPEVAL initially began in November 1999 and was temporarily halted following the loss of 19 Marines in a crash at Marana Airport in Tucson, Arizona, on 8 April 2000.
In July 2000, Dave Moorman succeeded Tony Parasida as the V-22 program manager at Boeing in Philadelphia. Dave Moorman was responsible for all Boeing activities in support of the Bell Boeing V-22 program, including the day-to-day management of the define, build, test and support activities.The CV-22 Integrated Test Team (ITT) conducted flight test operations on the first variant of the MV-22 aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base during August 2000. The CV-22 was being developed for Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) to replace both the MH-53 Pave Low Helicopter and some of the C-130 aircraft.
The Bell Boeing team selected a General Dynamics Armament Systems (GDAS) .50 caliber turreted gun for the V-22 Osprey aircraft in September 2000. Initial phase was for systems engineering and design, development, fabrication, testing and spares for three complete V-22 turreted gun systems. All production V-22s, whether Marine Corps (MV-22) or Air Force (CV-22), will feature the GDAS gun.
During its developmental testing period in September 2000, the V-22 successfully met or exceeded all performance and handling qualities requirements. The Bell Boeing team delivered 18 aircraft to the US Government. The V-22 aircraft, which had been located at five sites throughout the US, after the first CV-22 (aircraft Number 9), relocated to Edwards Air Force Base, California, to start follow-on operational test and evaluation (FOT&E) testing. The MV-22 Osprey was judged operationally effective and operationally suitable for land-based operations, validating eight months of comprehensive evaluation and moved the tiltrotor aircraft a major step closer to full-rate production. Marine Corps and Navy leaders were briefed on 11 October 2000 on the Operational Evaluation Report (OPEVAL),issued by the Navy's Operational Test and Evaluation Command.
The arrival of the first CV-22 Osprey on 18 September 2000 at Edwards Air Force Base, California was said to usher in a new era in aviation for the Air Force and US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The new CV-22 aircraft flew from the Bell Helicopter Flight Research Center Arlington, Texas, where it was converted from a MV-22 to a CV-22, to its new home at Edwards. The conversion began in June 1999 at the Bell facility where two MV-22 aircraft were reconfigured with CV-22 production wiring and CV-22-unique systems such as a multi-mode radar for terrain following/terrain avoidance, auxiliary fuel tanks, and an integrated electronic warfare suite.
The V-22 Program entered a challenging phase of its development cycle, the Full Rate Production Decision (Milestone III) in October 2000. The Milestone Decision Authority, who was to sign the decision authorizing entry into Full Rate Production, was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN (RDA)).
In November 2000, the MV-22 Osprey's improved the Blade Fold Wing Stow (BFWS) system was successfully demonstrated at sea, confirming the tiltrotor aircrafts suitability for shipboard operations which moved it one step closer to fullrate production. In the sea trials conducted aboard the USS Bataan, the Multi-Service Operational Test Team verified that a deficiency in the system that was designed to fold and stow the aircrafts wings and proprotors was corrected.
An update on the mishap about the allegations was reported on 19 January 2001, following an anonymous letter alleging that the commanding officer of an MV-22 Training Squadron directed Marines in his squadron to falsify readiness/maintenance data on the MV-22. The inspection team had completed their initial briefings with the Marines and civilians in the squadron. In the wake of the December mishap V-22 flight operations were suspended, a delay in the decision to move the Osprey to full-rate production was requested, and it was requested that the DoD form a high-level independent commission to review the entire V-22 program.
In March 2001 the United States Navy acquisition chief Lee Buchanan, made a decision to wait until more data was gathered before beginning full-rate production of the MV-22 Osprey for the US Marine Corps. The report took issue with reliability and maintainability concerns. The aircraft tested was found to be operationally effective but not operationally suitable. Program officials and the Pentagon were quick to point out that the report did not recommend against going ahead with production.
In July 2001, after nearly 29 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and four years as the V-22 program manager, Col. Nolan D. Schmidt was joined by over 250 guests at the Naval Air Systems Command headquarters, Patuxent River, Maryland., for his retirement and change of command. Schmidt was succeeded by Col. Dan Schultz, who became the sixth program manager since the program began in December 1982.
It was reported on 6 November 2001, that a NASA led review of the V-22 Osprey had issued a strong endorsement and urged an immediate return to flight testing and deployment of the aircraft. The 12-member independent assessment panel concluded that there were no known aerodynamics phenomena that would stop the safe and orderly deployment of the V-22. Between May and June 2002, the MV-22 Osprey flew for the first time after being grounded for more than 17 months following an operational pause.
In testing between October and November 2002, the V-22 integrated test team surpassed 100 hours flown since the program returned to flight. The milestone was reached by Osprey Number 10 on a three-hour test flight.
The V-22 Integrated Test Team reached another milestone on 4 April 2003 when Osprey Number 7, a CV-22 variant, successfully reached the multi-mission radar's low altitude target for the airplane mode of flight.
By August 2003, Osprey Number 7 had pushed the V-22 Integrated Test Team over the 500-flight hour milestone while conducting a test flight out of Edwards Air Force Base. The 500-flight hour achievement came after a very successful ruling on the V-22 test program by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics.
The V-22 Integrated Test Team welcomed the first "Block A" MV-22 Osprey to its fleet on 20 August 2003 when aircraft Number 34 touched down at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland. The aircraft was the first to incorporate the "Block A" modifications, which include software modifications, weight reduction initiatives, a redesigned nacelle and other safety of flight features. The aircraft's arrival increased the test program's inventory to seven MV-22s. Two CV-22s located at Edwards Air Force Base, California, were part of the test program for US Special Operations Command. An additional CV-22 was scheduled to arrive in November 2004, bringing the total number of test aircraft to 10.
It was reported in November 2003 that Naval Air Systems Command had awarded the V-22 program a $61 million contract modification to convert an existing low rate production MV-22 aircraft into a CV-22, the Special Operations variant of the tiltrotor. The additional test aircraft, which would boost the program's testing capability, joined the flight test program at Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB), California. The addition of the program's third CV-22 brought the total number of aircraft engaged in flight test activity to 10. The ongoing flight test program, split between EAFB and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, had amassed more than 930 hours since May 2002.
Between January and February 2004 the V-22 Integrated Test Team completed a detachment in USS Bataan (LHD 5), the second at-sea period for the Osprey program in this year. During the eleven days of the Phase IV shipboard suitability testing, the ITT conducted deck landing qualifications for five V-22 pilots (including one from VMX-22, the test and evaluation squadron based at MCAS New River, North Carolina), completed test points necessary to expand the Osprey's wind-over-deck envelope, and measured the effects of hovering H-53 and H-46 helicopters on a V-22 on deck behind them.
Also during this period, the V-22 surpassed 1,000-flight hours flown since the Osprey's return to flight in May '02. Osprey Number 24 got the program past the mark during an icing test flight over Nova Scotia, Canada where a V-22 Integrated Test Team detachment was based for the first half of the icing portion of the test plan.
During August and September of 2004 the V-22 Integrated Test Team completed Phase IVB of the Osprey's shipboard suitability testing, the fifth of six at-sea periods the tiltrotor must go through during the aircraft's developmental testing. This was the latest in a series of tests leading to the aircraft's operational evaluation and subsequent full-rate production decision next year. During the eight days aboard the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) operating in the waters off the coast of Maryland, the ITT did much toward proving the Osprey's capability on and around an amphibious assault ship.
In December 2004 the V-22 Integrated Test Team conducted shipboard suitability phase IVc for ten days. This was the fourth and final underway period for the ITT since the program's return to flight in May of 2002. Phase IVc's successful completion was an important step on the path toward the Osprey's operational evaluation early next year. The primary objective of this phase was to complete interaction testing between a V-22 parked on the flight deck and another V-22 hovering in front of it. Additional test objectives included flight envelope expansion for all port side landing spots aboard the LHD, developing a night short takeoff envelope, and evaluating the latest flight control software version.
Between February and March 2005, crews aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) conducted landing operations with the MV-22 Osprey. The landing operations was an effort to qualify 23 Marine Corps pilots from Marine Tilt Rotor Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 22 on day deck landings.
It was reported in September 2005 that the Osprey could be ready to deploy by 2007. Five years prior, the MV-22 Osprey was under threat of cancellation. After two crashes in 2000 killed 23 Marines, many thought any chances the revolutionary hybrid aircraft had of making it to the Marine Corps' operating forces were slim. A records falsification scandal in which program officials were cited for manipulating maintenance data, did much to reinforce doubts in the embattled program. The Osprey stopped flying, the training squadron was drawn down and the program all but stopped breathing. Somehow, though, the Osprey survived. Problems in six key areas survivability, availability, logistics supportability, compatibility, interoperability and documentation, were all resolved. Considering all that's happened in nearly two decades of development, Osprey officials were pleased with the results and expected to get the green light for full-rate production during the Fall of 2005.
As of fiscal year 2006, 85 Marine Corps MV-22s and 7 Air Force CV-22s were procured. The MV-22 was slated to replace the Marine Corps CH-46E and CH-53D helicopters. As of March 2007 there were two versions of the MV-22, the Block A, which incorporates safety related changes, and Block B, which was built upon the Block A to provide enhanced maintainability.
According to a March 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office, while the design of Block A is considered stable, Block A will not be deployed in combat. Design stability of Block B, the deployed configuration, would be better known after its limited operational assessment in late 2007. Design changes were possible in order to address any deficiencies identified during this test and those identified during prior Block A tests as well as to lower production costs, and to field future upgrades. Fuselage structural design changes were possible if improved troop seat crash retention capability was directed. The budget at the time reinstated a funding shortfall from 2006's budget submittal, and as a result, adequate funding to fully procure 185 aircraft existed. However, a bearing defect was been found in some critical assemblies of production aircraft and was being addressed.
As noted, the GAO report labeled the design of the MV-22 Block A was considered stable and mature. The Block B version, which would be the deployed version, had been built upon the Block A to provide enhanced maintainability. Its maturity would be better known after operational tests planned prior to its initial operational capability in September 2007. Further design changes to Block B were said to be potentially necessary to address deficiencies identified during the assessment and the 2005 operational tests of Block A, to lower the production cost, and to field future upgrades.
The Navy desired to increase the crash worthiness capability of the troop seat and fuselage structure above the current specification requirements. A new improved troop seat had been purchased for the V-22 aircraft, a medium risk had been accepted for the new troop seat installation with the current fuselage structure, and the program was evaluating engineering change alternatives to add crash worthiness capability to the fuselage structure to further enhance crash worthiness capability. Improved troop seats could, in some crash conditions, impart higher loads into the airframe than originally intended due to new higher qualification standards.
According to program officials, engineering change proposals could be used to lower unit recurring flyaway cost to a level contractors believe was needed to generate foreign military sales of the aircraft. The government had invested and intended additional investments in cost reduction. At an initial meeting program officials stated that on cost type contracts most engineering change proposals were usually done at the government's expense even if the change was within the scope of the contract. However, when providing written technical comments the program office stated to the GAO that the contractor had made and continued to make corporate investments as well to drive recurring flyaway costs down.
In September 2005, DoD had already approved the V-22 for full-rate production after conducting a production readiness review. The review identified program management, production engineering and planning, and material and procured parts as high-risk areas requiring intense management attention. A number of initiatives were proposed to reduce these risks including the approval of a multi-year procurement contract in order to achieve a low product cost-one of the components of the high program management risk areas. Congress in 2007 authorized the program to enter into a multiyear procurement contract. Initially program officials did not believe they could buy the number of aircraft proposed in the multi-year justification because of a reduction in program funding levels. This reduction was the result of the milestone decision authority adopting a lower independent cost estimate than the program estimate.
As of March 2007 production aircraft continued to be accepted with numerous deviations and waivers. Program officials stated that this practice would continue due to the time needed to address these items. Analysis of the acceptance documentation for the latest three aircraft delivered before November 2006, revealed several potentially serious defects such as the aircraft being conditionally accepted with bearing assemblies that contain a thin dense chrome plating/coating that did not meet contract requirements for two assemblies inside the proprotor gearbox. One of these assemblies was in a critical area. Program officials state that this deficiency has been addressed by stripping chrome plating from bearings and replating in accordance with improved manufacturing processes, and also qualifying newly manufactured bearings for use without the chrome plating. Program officials stated that these bearing assemblies may not meet the contract requirements in two critical assemblies.
By March 2008 a number of design changes to the MV-22 Block B were under review, including a fix for hydraulic fluid leaks that had contributed to engine fires, a new troop seat design, reliability improvements for desert or icy environment operations, and cost reduction initiatives. The program office believed these design changes would address safety, reliability, and performance concerns. The proposed multiyear production contract would increase annual production rates but included fewer aircraft than expected. Aircraft continued to be accepted with deviations and waivers, and the contractor's ability to produce aircraft at the higher rates was a concern, but it was being managed closely by the program office. Earlier Block A aircraft continued to be upgraded to the Block B design at a cost of $15 million to $20 million per aircraft, according to program officials.
As of March 2008 a newly designed crashworthy troop seat had been added to address deficiencies identified during testing in 2000. The troop seats, which would be installed on new production aircraft, provide higher G-force load capabilities consistent with existing G-force load requirements. Program officials state, however, that the aircraft structure was not designed to meet these new increased G-force load requirements and it was possible that the airframe's structural capability could be exceeded in certain crash scenarios. The exact difference between the seat loading and the airframe capability was being assessed to determine ways to strengthen the airframe to better match the higher G-force load capabilities of the troop seats now being installed.
Fires had occurred in the engine compartment due to leaking hydraulic fluid coming into contact with hot engine parts, forcing the program office to make design changes to components and couplings in that area. Program officials were investigating whether the contractor could make changes to the engine compartment drainage system or if all hydraulic lines could be removed completely from the engine compartments to keep this from occurring. In the near term, frequent inspections were being conducted to check for hydraulic leaks.
Program officials were also concerned that aircraft reliability and mission capability rates could be reduced when operating in desert environments such as Iraq, where it was deployed, and in icy environments, such as Afghanistan. The effects of sand and dust on the aircraft systems and ice protection system maturity could affect mission capability rates. The program office stated that both of these issues were being tracked and could result in design changes, especially as more maintenance experience was gained from deployment of the aircraft.
In the Defense Appropriations and Authorization Acts for FY07, Congress authorized and appropriated funds for the Navy to enter into a multiyear contract for the V-22, beginning with the FY08 program year. Negotiations for a multiyear procurement contract were still under way as of March of 2008. Original plans called for quickly increasing annual production to 42 aircraft per year, a rate that was substantially higher than the 11 aircraft per year the program was held to through FY06. The highest annual production rate planned for the multiyear contract had since been decreased to 36 aircraft, and the total quantities were reduced from 185 to 167 aircraft. The V-22 program recognized the challenges with increasing the annual production rate under the multiyear procurement contract, specifically the inherent challenge of producing the fuselage and wing at separate locations and then assembling them at a third site.
The GAO reported in their 2008 assessment that production aircraft continued to be conditionally accepted with deviation and waiver issues. These included erratic behavior of multifunction displays and anomalies during engine start. The multifunction display behavior was addressed with a mission computer software update that provided an alternative solution, but did not determine the root cause, as it could not be replicated in the lab. The engine start anomaly was addressed by design corrections. Also, the revised government-furnished troops seats, which met G-force load requirements, were not available for installation on all recently delivered aircraft.
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