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V-22 Starts Air-to-Air Refueling Tests

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040330-15

Release Date: 3/31/2004 4:26:00 AM

By Ward Carroll, Naval Air Systems Command Public Affairs

PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (NNS) -- On the afternoon of March 22, the V-22 Integrated Test Team (ITT) flew the first air-to-air refueling flights since the program's return to flight in May of 2002.

Over the course of two one-hour sorties using Osprey No. 22, test pilots Marine Lt. Col. Kevin Gross and Steve Grohsmeyer each logged five "dry plugs" behind an Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 KC-130F operating near Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The pilots were assisted by crew chiefs Marine Staff Sgts. Brett Heuvelman and Craig Mynard.

The primary reason for the flights was to re-establish Gross and Grohsmeyer's day aerial refueling qualifications. Eventually, the ITT will have six pilots qualified to tank day and night, and at night while wearing night vision goggles--all part of the developmental test plan.

"Air-to-air refueling is an easy task in the V-22," Gross said after the flights. "The aircraft demonstrates positive and predictable characteristics in all axes, but especially in the thrust axis where the pilot's ability to control closure rates is important."

Gross said this particular refueling exercise was done at airspeeds around 200 knots and an altitude of 10,000 feet.

Although Osprey No. 22 has an 11-foot fixed probe, the qualification flights were the initial step toward testing the new retractable refueling probe that will be installed on Osprey No. 21, currently being modified in Hangar 109 at Patuxent River. The developmental testing of the retractable probe will begin early next month and should last about three weeks. The retractable probe is just over 9 feet long when extended but is flush with the nose when stowed--a necessary feature for shipboard operations.

The V-22's air-to-air refueling features are the cornerstone of the improvements in self-deployment capability and operational range over the legacy systems it will replace.

The air-to-air refueling developmental testing is just one area where the ITT is supporting Tilt-Rotor Operational Test Squadron (VMX) 22, the Osprey Test and Evaluation Squadron based at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., as they prepare for OPEVAL next year. Once developmental testing is complete--whether it is air-to-air refueling, formation flight, or shipboard operations--VMX-22 is cleared to begin operational testing in that area.

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