The new aircraft the US Navy needs to cover its 'golden mile' just took another major step forward
US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Brooke Macchietto
As the service has gotten closer to deploying with its variant of the Joint Strike fighter, the F-35C, the need for the V-22's heavy-lifting capacity has grown more urgent. And after a round of tests in early August, the Navy is a step closer to meeting its resupply and logistics needs.
Aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush this month, Osprey pilots successfully performed rolling landings and takeoffs at a total weight of more than 57,000 pounds, outstripping the C-2A's maximum landing weight of 49,000 pounds.
The Osprey's vertical-lift capability, along with its ability to reach fixed-wing aircraft speed and range, make it ideal for carrier onboard delivery and vertical on-board delivery, the Navy says. That extra lifting capacity also provides a missing link in the Navy's plans for the F-35C.
The engine in the F-35C and the Marine Corps' variant, the F-35B (which has already deployed to an amphibious assault ship) is too heavy for platforms like the MH-60 helicopter and too big for the C-2A. Only the V-22 combines the range and lifting ability to get the engine over the final stretch between shore and ship - the "golden mile."
The Navy plans to replace its 27 C-2As with 38 CMV-22Bs beginning in 2020. Below, you can see how the latest round of testing went down.
Ospreys have long been in use by the Marine Corps, but the Navy's CMV-22B variant has some modifications to make it better suited for carrier operations.
It has more fuel capacity in the fuselage and wings, a special high-frequency antenna to aid navigation over open water, and a better intercom system to communicate with passengers.
The expanded fuel capacity allows the CMV-22B to haul up to 6,000 pounds of cargo for a distance of 1,100 nautical miles, or roughly 1,265 statute miles. This beats out the Greyhound's cargo capacity of just 800 pounds and its range of 1,000 nautical miles.
"I started off flying Greyhound carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft and I love the platform," said Lt. Cmdr. Steven Tschanz, a Navy test pilot who took part in the Osprey tests aboard the USS Bush. "With that said, nothing lasts forever and the Navy came up with a solution to move us into the future with the CMV-22 Osprey."
F-35Bs belonging to the Marine Corps have already been deployed on a Navy ship. A detachment of the aircraft joined a Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp earlier this year — the F-35B's first operational deployment with an MEU.
The Navy's F-35C, the largest of the three Joint Strike Fighter variants, is slated to deploy for the first time aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson sometime in 2021. The fifth-generation fighter is supposed to eventually make up half the fighters based on aircraft carriers.
The Navy plans to run CMV-22 operations out of Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia and out of Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego. The changeover to the new aircraft is expected to start in 2020 and wrap up in 2028.
Lt. Gavin Kurey, the first Navy pilot to land a CMV-22 on an aircraft carrier, said the transition to the Osprey for carrier onboard delivery represented a major change.
"This underway is a historic event for the Navy," Kurey said in a Navy release. "I never thought I’d be part of something like this as a COD guy. There’s a lot of reluctance to join new platforms that are so different initially, but to be part of the first wave that can help to make that transition happen is an amazing experience."
"This is why I went to test pilot school," said Tschanz, the test pilot. "I finished my flight with my co-pilot and we fist-bumped. This is why I joined. This is why I’m a test pilot. It’s things like this that make this job."
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