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by Kris Osborn

Navy Osprey pilots conducted a series of maneuvers with an MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft on board the USS Carl Vinson – in preparation for a Navy Osprey variant to be operational 2021.

The new Navy Osprey is slated to replace the existing C2-Greyound currently performing the Carrier-On-Board, or COD, mission brining forces, supplies and equipment from shore to ship and back again.

Increased maneuverability and vertical landings are a few of the distinct advantages provided by the Osprey, Navy officials explained.

“We learned about the flexibility of having a tilt-rotor aircraft that can come in and land like a helicopter on the flight deck,” Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, public affairs officer, Commander, Naval Air Forces, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Exercises included delivering supplies, unloading faster with rollers and performing the range of missions now executed by the C-2; the Osprey, however, is more effective at conducting dangerous missions, quickly loading and unloading cargo and operating at night.

An increased ability to tranport food, equipment and weapons at night could increase the combat survivability of transport aircraft brining relevant supplies to carriers, at night-transport aircraft naturally present more diffiicult targets for potential enemies to accurately fire upon. 

Nighttime operations are also much more challenging because reduced visibility also means pilots need to rely more on sensors, avionics and instrumentation to navigate fast-changing conditions and land in turbulent seas. 

Given the additional difficulty of navigation carrier landings amidst a range of fast-changing conditions, C-2 aircraft do not typically operate at night; While Ospreys tend to avoid transferring passengers in more risky, night-time operations, they do conduct MEDEVAC and logistics missions at night. Osprey crews go through specific night-time ocean survival training in preparation for operating at night and in dangerous conditions, Groeneveld added. 

An ability to conduct night missions will enable the Osprey to take on a wider set of missions than those performed by a C-2. Helicopter or tilt-rotor carrier landings do not require the same amount of preparation as that needed for a C-2 landing; there is no need for a catapult and a tilt-rotor naturally has a much wider envelope with which to maneuver.

The Marine Corps provided MV-22 Corps variant Ospreys, aircrews and maintainers from Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1) and Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1) to enable the experiment by replicating the future intended Navy CMV-22B capabilities when delivered.

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“With every evolution they got faster off-loading the cargo and got more skilled at being able to reduce that time on the deck. We wanted to see how long on deck the operator would need,” Groenveld added.

The Navy CVM-22B Osprey variant, which should begin formal production in the next several years, is designed to enable 1,150 miles of flight to the ship with extended fuel tanks. Alongside a needed range increase, the new aircraft will also include a new radio for over-the-horizon communications and built-in public address system.

The Marine Corps is providing aircraft, aircrews and maintainers from Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1) and Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1) to enable the experiment by replicating the future intended Navy CVM-22B capabilities when delivered, Navy statements said. 

Following the operations on the USS Carl Vinson 100-miles off the coast of Southern California, the Navy is analyzing data with a mind to how best to optimize Osprey missions in the future, she explained.

“Going out to the ship at night was eye opening to me. The level of situational awareness that they have at night was beyond my expectations,” Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Carter - fleet battle experiment lead, told Scout Warrior in an interview.  

Navy Osprey pilots and maintainers will begin training operations this Fall.

The new Osprey, slated to first be operational by 2021, will perform the full range of missions currently executed by the C-2s. This includes VIP transport, humanitarian relief mission and regular efforts to deliver food, spare parts and equipment for sailors aboard carriers. Also, C-2 aircraft has a reconfigurable cargo bay which can create space for 12-stretchers for medical evacuation and transport.

The existing Corps MV-22 Osprey is also known for what is called "mounted vertical maneuver" wherein Marines use the speed, range and maneuverability of the Osprey to fly in behind enemy lines, land vertically and conduct a range of operations, including assisting amphibious missions. The Osprey can transport Marines, equipment and weapons systems with a combat radius of 450 miles. The new, in-development Navy variant will extend this combat radius to allow for ocean transport of supplies, equipment and weapons to assets on the open seas far from shore. The aircraft can also move important cargo between ships such as carriers and amphibs. 

In addition, the Osprey is being developed as a tanker aircraft able to perform aerial refueling missions; the idea is to transport fuel and use a probe technology to deliver fuel to key aircraft such as an F/A-18 or F-35C. 

The first Navy Ospreys will be procured in 2018 with some early “long-lead” items acquired in 2017, Bell-Boeing officials said.

Some of the requirements for the new aircraft have already been established, there are other still in the process of being determined and refined.

While the Navy’s aerial delivery mission does not require an armed aircraft, there will be occasions which require the aircraft to operate from forward bases in a higher threat environment.