The V-22 Osprey has overcome its turbulent past and has emerged as a multi-mission capable tiltrotor system. With its latest win, a U.S Navy contract worth $6 billion, and growing interest abroad manufacturers Bell-Boeing have come a long way.
After the failed Iran Hostage Crisis rescue attempt (Operation Eagle Claw) in 1980 that left eight American service personnel dead and wreckages speckled across the Iranian desert, the U.S Department of Defense in 1981 enacted the "Joint-Service Vertical Take-Off/Landing Experimental" (JVX) program intending to secure a specialized aircraft with vertical take-off and horizontal flight capabilities.
With that began the joint venture between Bell Helicopters and Boeing that would eventually kill 30 people, cost the U.S taxpayers $54 billion, suffer public backlash and even endure Dick Cheney’s attempts to cancel the program.
In 1988, despite the unveiling of the very first V-22 prototype the U.S shelved the project for a year citing rising costs and was nearly cancelled four years later. But the aircraft pulled through after the two companies proved enough evidence of the feasibility, and capabilities inherent in the V-22 to proceed with the project for the interim.
The following year, the first horizontal flight of an MV-22 (designation for USMC V-22s) was conducted followed by sea trials by 1990.
The slow progress was marred by accidents involving the fourth and fifth prototypes causing designers to red-do their initial V-22 design. The redesign set the project back another year and in 1993 Bell-Boeing introduced the V-22B with a modified airframe.
The V-22B was utilized in innumerable testing after that and an evaluation prototype was sent to the Naval Air Warfare Test Center in 1997.
In 2000, two unrelated V-22 accidents killed 19 marines and a number of minor incidents had upped its formal evaluation period to 2005 while extra safety measures were implemented. Serial full-rate production was granted in 2005, by then developmental costs had risen exponentially to $27 billion from the original $2.5 billion.
With the U.S Marines as their primary operators, the V-22 became the world's first operational tiltrotor design anywhere in the world.
In the past few years, the V-22 has gained notoriety for its numbers accident reports including the 2010 incident in Afghanistan that killed three soldiers, one civilian and injured 16 others.
Two years later, in Morocco during a joint training exercise, named "African Lion". Two Marines were killed and two others were seriously injured, and the aircraft was lost. The same year, a CV-22 crashed in Florida during training killing five crew members aboard the aircraft and injuring two others.
In 2012, following the incident in Florida and Morocco, Nearly one hundred thousand people gathered in a rally in Okinova and protested against the deployment of the U.S ospreys that has caused several problems to the people in Japan. Despite protests, the U.S, a few months later received approval to operate the aircraft in Japan.
The V-22 last month received a sign of approval from the White House after Bell-Boeing won a contract to supply 12 MV-22 Ospreys to Marine Helicopter Squadron One responsible to carry President of the United States and his staff.
At present, some 458 V-22s have been ordered with 360 expected to enter USMC service (MV-22B) and 50 aircraft slated for the USAF (CV-22) while the US Navy may receive as many as 48 examples (HV-22). So far only 160 have been built and in operational use.
In 2011, the US Navy evaluating the idea of replacing their long-running Grumman C-2 "Greyhound" carrier aircraft with navalized HV-22 Ospreys in the Carrier Onboard Delivery (COB) role.
The V-22 Osprey nabbed its first export contract last month after U.S Secretary of State Chuck Hagel last month negotiated a deal with Israel to sell the first ever V-22 Osprey transports to a foreign country. The U.S is also courting possible customers Canada and the UAE as possible initial foreign buyers of the V-22 Osprey. However, despite "significant interest” there is still no word if the sales are going forward.
The Osprey has the honor of being the only aircraft of its kind in the modern skies. The cockpit consists of a side-by-side seating arrangement with framed canopy windscreen allowing for above, side and forward views of the action behind a short, sloping nosecone. The passenger/cargo cabin is directly aft of the cockpit with access doors along the sides of the forward fuselage.
The fuselage carries a noticeably bulged lower sides while the straight-wing appendages are seated atop the roof at amidships. Each wing root manages a positional engine nacelle which can face upwards for (take-off, landing and hovering) or tilt horizontally to direct power for forward flight as needed. Each engine powers a large, three-bladed composite rotor assembly. The wing root houses a cross-shaft system that allows both propellers to be powered in the event of emergency power loss to one engine.
The empennage of the craft is raised to allow access to the powered cargo ramp at rear. The tail is capped by a twin vertical tail arrangement and large-area horizontal tail plane. The undercarriage is fully-retractable and consists of a pair of double-tired main legs and a double-tired nose leg.
The standard operating crew of a V-22 is four personnel and includes two pilots and a pair of flight engineers. Up to 24 seated ("crash-worthy" seats) passengers or 32 standing infantry can be transported. In lieu of personnel, the aircraft can haul up to 20,000lbs of internal cargo or 15,000lbs of external cargo (such as an underslung M777 howitzer artillery). A single four-wheeled JEEP-type vehicle (USMC "Growler" ITV) can also be transported within the fuselage.
Three US marines are presumed lost at sea after 23 others were rescued when an American MV-22 Osprey aircraft crashed off the Queensland coast during a US-Australian military exercise. The MV-22 Osprey aircraft was involved in a “mishap” at about 4pm Saturday off Shoalwater Bay near Rockhampton, where the biennial Talisman Sabre joint US and Australian military training exercise is under way, the US Marine Corps said in a media statement
The US Navy has awarded a $1.3 billion worth contract to Bell-Boeing for the procurement of 22 V-22 Ospreys, which authorizes purchase of 100 V-22s over the next five years
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