The Osprey, compared to the Sea Knight it replaced, can carry three times the payload and travel twice as fast and five times farther.
The V-22 Osprey is a tiltrotor vertical/short takeoff and landing (VSTOL), multi-mission air-craft developed to fill multi-Service combat operational requirements. The MV-22 replaced the current Marine Corps assault helicopters in the medium lift category (CH-46E and CH-53D), contributing to the dominant maneuver of the Marine landing force, as well as supporting focused logistics in the days following commencement of an amphibious operation. The Air Force variant, the CV-22, replaces the MH-53J and MH-60G and augment the MC-130 fleet in the USSOCOM Special Operations mission. The Air Force requires the CV-22 to provide a long-range VTOL insertion and extraction capability. The tiltrotor design combines the vertical flight capabilities of a helicopter with the speed and range of a turboprop airplane and permits aerial refueling and world-wide self deployment.
On 17 September 2007 the first combat squadron of V-22 Ospreys deployed for Iraq, beginning a new form of aerial warfare. Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, nicknamed "The Thunder Chickens," with 10 Ospreys left for Iraq aboard the USS Wasp, a Navy amphibious assault ship. The departure from the Marine Air Station at New River, NC, was made under tight security without advance notice to the media and with no ceremonial speeches by Marine Corps officials. They would be based at the Al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq for at least seven months of combat operations. The Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys would be used to transport combat Marines and cargo throughout al-Anbar province.
During the two-year [2002-2003] flight test program, DoD reviewed buying existing helicopters as an alternative, should the V-22 fail to meet safety and reliability requirements. The FY2004 Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) directed a study of alternatives for the V-22, including the Sikorsky S-92 Helibus, an upgrade of the existing CH-53E Super Stallion, or the AgustaWestland EH101.
From March to June 2005, an operational test and an evaluation was conducted that deemed the Osprey operationally suitable and operationally capable. On 28 September 2005 the Defense Acquisition Board endorsed the V-22 Osprey and recommended moving toward full production of the aircraft. Textron and Boeing would build at least 458 of the V-22 aircraft for the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy. The Marine Corps accepted the first production Block-B MV-22 Osprey in a ceremony at Bell Helicopter in Amarillo, Texas, 08 December 2005. This progression from Block A to Block B marks the baseline configuration that would reach initial operational capability in 2007. VMM-263 stood up as the first operational MV-22 squadron on 03 March 2006 under the command of Lt. Col. Paul Rock.
The MV-22B configuration aircraft serves as the baseline design. The CV-22 configuration would include additional wing fuel tanks, a Terrain Following/Terrain Avoidance radar, and enhanced avionics packages to satisfy SOF specific mission requirements. The V-22 would replace the CH-46E and CH-53A/D helicopters in the Marine Corps; replace USSOCOM's MH-53J and MH-60G helicopters; and supplement USSOCOM's MC-130E/H fleet. CSAR requirements of the USN by the HV-22 variant would augment and replace an as yet to be determined (TBD) aircraft.
Due to its range, payload flexibility, and speed, the MV-22 is envisioned as a major component of the Navy/Marine Corps concept of Operational Maneuver from the Sea. The Air Force requires the CV-22 to provide a long-range VTOL insertion and extraction capability and to supplement the Special Operations Forces (SOF) MC-130 aircraft in precision engagement. The V-22 is expected to operate in both global and regional conflicts in support of operations ranging from peactime engagements to conventional, high-intensity, general warfare. Projected threats to the V-22 include small arms, man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), anti-aircraft artillery, missiles and projectiles fired from high performance fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft, lasers, and integrated air defense systems.
The V-22 "Osprey" Program is a Department of the Navy program responsible for developing, testing, evaluating, procuring, and fielding a tilt-rotor, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for Joint Service application. The V-22 provides the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps with a multi-engine, dual piloted, self-deployable, medium lift, Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft to be used to conduct combat, combat support, combat service support, and special operations missions worldwide.
The V-22 Osprey Program consists of a Joint Multi-Mission Vertical Lift Aircraft that provides the USMC, Headquarters USSOCOM, USAF, and the United States Navy (USN) with a multi-engine, dual piloted, self-deployable, medium lift, vertical take-off and landing aircraft to be used to conduct combat, combat support, combat service support, and special operations missions worldwide. Missions include, but are not limited to, amphibious assault, land assault, raid operations, medium cargo lift, Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), and Special Operations Force (SOF) support. The aircraft (MV-22 for the USMC, CV-22 for USSOCOM, and HV-22 for the USN) are capable of conducting operations in adverse weather, during daylight hours or at night, in climates from arctic to tropical from aviation and air capable ships (primary operating and support sea bases are Amphibious Assault (General Purpose) (LHA) and Amphibious Assault (Multi Purpose) (LHD) class ships, or from improved and unimproved landing sites ashore; and in a variety of conventional, unconventional, and contingency combat situations including Chemical, Biological, and Radiological warfare conditions. An air refueling capability would extend the aircraft's combat mission range when required, and it would be self-supporting to the maximum extent possible.
The aircraft is manned by a pilot, copilot, and enlisted aircrew appropriate for the specific service and type of mission being flown. The V-22 is optimized to transport troops (i.e., 24 combat-equipped Marines, or 10,000 pounds of external cargo) to austere landing sites from aviation capable amphibious ships and expeditionary forward operating bases ashore. The V-22 would be capable of flying over 2,100 nautical miles with one aerial refueling, giving the Services the advantage of a Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing aircraft that can rapidly self-deploy to any location in the world.
Testing has confirmed key advantages in range, speed, and payload, in comparison to current rotary-wing aircraft that are inherent to the tilt-rotor concept. In the planning and execution of missions, these three improved characteristics of range, speed, and payload can be interchanged and utilized in countless ways. Together they provide a major step ahead in tactical flexibility. For example, the increased range of the MV-22 (as compared to the CH-46 and CH-53 helicopters) enables the execution of combat assaults at extended ranges. The ensuing greater radius of action would allow the Landing Force Commander more options in LZ selection, enabling the force to go where the enemy isn't. This increased range can also be employed to provide reduced exposure of the LHA/LHD platform to shore threats. In raid or Other Expeditionary Operations, MV-22s would be able to launch at a greater distance, employing greater speed to get to the objective area hours before such an operation using CH-46s. In medical evacuations, the longer legs, greater speed available, coupled with the point-to-point VSTOL capability of the V-22 would save lives.
The V-22 is the first tilt-rotor aircraft to be fielded in the military. It is a hybrid aircraft, combining selected capabilities of an airplane and a helicopter. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has classified tilt rotors as powered lift aircraft, neither airplane nor rotorcraft. The V-22 uses many unique items to achieve its configuration and capability. The airframe incorporates new materials and structural designs. Advanced avionics provide mission enhancement while new wiring technologies increase reliability and reduce weight. New hydraulic technology is also applied. Redundant digital systems such as fly-by-wire flight controls are used in lieu of traditional hybrid redundancies. New processes are applied in the operation and maintenance of the V-22. Examples include the mission planning station used by aircrew before flight, and the maintenance station used between flights to automatically identify defects and conduct trend analysis to predict future maintenance actions.
Operational tests and training exercises identified challenges in the V-22's ability to conduct operations in high-threat environments, carry the required number of combat troops and transport external cargo, operate from Navy ships, and conduct missions operating in more extreme environments throughout the world.
The Osprey was intended to operate across a spectrum of high-threat combat situations, facing a broad range of enemy land-and sea-based weapons. However, its ability to do so is not yet demonstrated. The V-22 has maneuvering limits that restrict its ability to perform defensive maneuvers and it does not have a required integrated defensive weapon needed to suppress threats while approaching a landing zone, disembarking troops within the landing zone, or while leaving the landing zone. Currently, the Marine Corps intends to employ the aircraft in a manner that limits its exposure to threats -- a change from the original intent that the system would be able to operate in such environments.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) suspended airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in December 2015, citing fears for its pilots’ safety after a Jordanian pilot was captured. The UAE would not participate until US V-22 Osprey aircraft were based in northern Iraq, rather than Kuwait, so they can respond faster to execute a combat search-and-rescue operation to recover a downed pilot. The reason those V-22s were not in northern Iraq is that the airbases located there could not be adequately secured from the potential threats from ISIS rocket, mortar, and small-arms attacks. The US moved V-22 Ospreys used for combat SAR into Iraq following criticism from Arab partners that they were stationed too far away in Kuwait.