New CMV-22B Osprey “A Game-Changer,” Says Navy Air Boss
The CMV-22B Osprey was lauded for it’s range, payload and mission flexibility following its first operational deployment.
Seven months after receiving its initial operational capability rating (IOC), the Navy’s new CMV-22B Osprey carrier onboard delivery (COD) platform proved itself a “game-changer” on its first deployment, the Navy’s air boss said at a forum on Naval Aviation Wednesday.
“With distributed maritime ops, longer ranges, distances between multi-carrier operations, distances from land-based areas, and the ability for the CMV- 22B to plop down on unimproved spaces, it proved to be a game-changer for us on deployment,” Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander of Naval Air Forces (NAVAIR) and Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said during a Maritime Security Dialogue event hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies and the U.S. Naval Institute.
The CMV-22B is an adaptation of the MV-22B used by the U.S. Marine Corps as its standard medium-lift assault support aircraft. It was designed to replace the Navy’s existing C-2A Greyhound COD aircraft, a twin-engine, propeller-driven design that first entered service in the mid-1960s.
Whitesell cited several advantages the CMV-22B has over both the Greyhound and the Marine Corps' MV-22 tilt-rotor variant.
Its “increased gas payload” gives it a far greater operating range than MV-22, he said.
It also has a slightly greater range than the Greyhound.
Powered by two Rolls-Royce Liberty AE1107C engines, each delivering 6,200 shaft horsepower, the Opsrey has a range of about 1,150 nautical miles with a 6,000-pound internal payload. It's also capable of aerial refueling, while the C-2 is not.
By comparison, the Greyhound, powered by two Allison T56-A-425 turboprop engines each delivering 4,600 shaft horsepower, has a range of about 1,000 nautical miles.
Then there was the issue of being able to land on an aircraft carrier at night.
Whitesell said the CMV-22B can do that, while the Navy has been "reticent in the past" to allow Greyhounds to do night carrier landings "based on the avionics in that platform."
And not having to launch the aircraft off a catapult proved to be very important on medevac missions, because medical personnel didn’t have to worry about how the tremendous lurching force of that would affect patients.
He also lauded the Osprey for the flexibility it offers in terms of being able to quickly land, take off, load and unload.
It has “the ability to get it on and off the deck In a rather rapid fashion,” Whitesell said. “I don't have to clean catapults three and four and land to COD. I can now land it just like a helicopter. I can reposition it. As soon as it offloads, or prior to onload, I can take it back into starboard delta” — Navy term for a holding pattern used by the helicopters and COD aircraft flown on the starboard side of the ship and using right-hand turns at 500 feet.
While the Program of Record has 48 CMV-22 projected, the Navy currently plans to procure only 44 aircraft from its manufacturer, Bell-Boeing.
In December 2018, the Navy held a ceremony to mark the activation of the first operational CMV-22B unit, Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron 30 (VRM-30), at Naval Air Station North Island in California. The service subsequently sent the initial cadre of future naval Osprey crews to train with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204 (VMMT-204).
Whitesell on Wednesday gave the Marines a big shout-out for their help in training Navy aviators and crew on the Osprey.
The Marines "taught our maintainers how to work on this platform and taught our instructors and pilots how to fly this," he said.
The CMV-22B’s first aircraft carrier landing took place in 2020 aboard the flight deck of the Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson underway in the Pacific Ocean.
Its first deployment took place in the summer of 2021 when Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30 embarked on the Vinson alongside the F-35C Lightning II and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye squadrons.
"The first deployed detachment has executed a mission completion rate of 98% and a mission capable rate of 75%," the Navy said in a release at the time. "The CMV-22B is a crucial element of future carrier air wings due to the cargo capacity needed to transport F-35 power modules and additional logistics support for future carrier air wing deployments with next-generation platforms."
There were initial concerns about the space required by the tilt-rotor to take off and land from a carrier, as well as maneuvering around the flight deck, and how this might affect the launching and recovering process.
Whitesell said concerns about how the Osprey would fit on deck were addressed by alocatting additional hangar bay space.
“I have not heard any complaints from the flight deck crew or a handler" of the carrier-deployed CMV-22s, he said.
There have been other concerns voiced about the CMV-22B’s suitability for the COD mission, too. We discussed these at length here, but they include a lack of cabin pressurization. Unless its passengers and crew are on oxygen, the Osprey has to fly at lower altitudes, and over long distances, at turboprop-like speeds. Being that its destination is usually far out to sea, that can include being forced to fly through highly inclement weather.
In February, as the Navy announced the CMV-22B had obtained its IOC, Bloomberg News reported that the aircraft wasn’t yet “operationally suitable” because it has only “partially met reliability requirements,” the Pentagon’s testing office said in a non-public assessment. Among the problems was the CMV-22's ice protection system “accounted for 25% of the operational mission failures, which will result in mission aborts."
There were also issues with the aircraft’s high-frequency radios.
Despite those issues, Bloomberg News reported, the test office found the CMV-22B Osprey is “operationally effective for carrier onboard delivery, medical evacuation, Naval Special Warfare support and search and rescue.”
While not addressing the specifics of that report, Whitesell on Wednesday did talk about the CMV-22B’s mission capable rate.
“For COD, you always have one in phased maintenance,” he said, referring to a Navy program designed to meet both operational and maintenance objectives by providing for two-to-three-month maintenance availabilities every 15 to 18 months. “So even with the C-2, you always had about 66% mission capability. And sure enough, with CMV-22, our maintenance schedule for the inaugural deployment was exactly the same. We still had about 67% mission capability rate as we had one of the platforms in phased maintenance. But now we were looking at the class maintenance plan for every platform that we have.”
The bottom line, he said, is that CMV-22 “was safe and efficient on its first deployment and we'll start looking at all those plans just like we're doing for every other platform.”
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