Paris Air Show: Arming options for CV-22
Further arming options are being considered for the US Air Force’s special operations CV-22 tiltrotor as Bell-Boeing plans where to take the variants of the aircraft next and manufactures long-lead items for the US Navy long-range CMV-22B variant.
There are currently 320 aircraft operating worldwide and in the ten years since the first aircraft entered operational service the fleet has clocked up more than 350,000 hours. The company is currently in discussions with the Pentagon for the third multi-year contract and officials are hopeful this will be inked before the end of the year.
Various trials have demonstrated additional capabilities or roles, according to a Boeing official.
‘We are developing V-22 aerial refuelling system (VARS) capability. Bell-Boeing configured a test aircraft and put a hose drogue assembly on [the] aircraft. We trailed out the hose, brought F/A-18 to pre-contact position and verified the hose was stable and could be plugged but didn’t plug. We are on contract now to develop capability,’ the official said.
‘We are talking with the USN and USMC about ship resupply, in particular the 10,000lb [4,535kg] F-135 engine power module. It is difficult to resupply this while ships are underway – you have to have ships with highline capability to hold that weight and across cable and down to ship which would mean modifications to the sending and receiving ship. Or you put it into an aircraft that is able to carry that and land.
‘The V-22 can fit the module inside fuselage with a cradle developed by engine manufacturer Pratt [&Whitney]. We tested this on USS Wasp and demonstrated that it fits. Because you don’t have trap and catapult to land, you don’t have to worry about increased shock that the engine would have to experience with that high gross weight.’
The company is also looking at anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare capabilities, arguing that the same advantages which apply generally to the aircraft are particularly applicable for ASW. The V-22 would not need to be tied to a ground asset as a fixed-wing aircraft is and have longer loiter time and would have an increased range rotary aircraft.
The advantage of the V-22’s tiltrotor system though, becomes a challenge when weaponising compared to other platforms.
In some variants aircraft has a .50 calibre gun mount on its ramp and a defensive weapon capability where a retractable weapon is deployed using one of the ‘hell holes’, a hatch under the fuselage.
The official said evaluations had taken place and work was continuing. ‘We work with USAF and USMC on weapons,’ he said.
‘We’ve fired rockets off a pylon mounted on the cheek of the aircraft and demonstrated the ability to launch and hit targets. We have talked at length about a gun and one of AFSOCs [Air Force Special Operations Command’s] requirements is to have a gun, a forward firing weapon.
‘The need for a weapon on the CV-22 is to make it more useful to commanders down range and we’ve been talking about what it would look like, how we can get it done and more importantly how we can get it done quickly.
‘There are questions though. What are your concepts of operation? When do you want to fire – vertical flight, forward flight, transition? What is your Field-of-View?’ they added.
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