The Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey is the world’s first production tiltrotor aircraft, with one three-bladed proprotor, turboprop engine, and transmission nacelle mounted on each wingtip. It is classified as a powered lift aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration. capable of both takeoff and landing vertically, the V-22 Osprey typically operates as a helicopter with the nacelles vertical and positioned rotors horizontal. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft. Once airborne, the nacelles rotate forward 90° in as little as 12 seconds for horizontal flight. The V-22 Osprey can preform short take off and landings, rolling-takeoff, and landing capability by tilting the nacelles forward up to 45°. For compact storage and transport, the V-22′s wing rotates to align, front-to-back, with the fuselage. The proprotors can also fold in a sequence taking 90 seconds.
The V-22 Osprey originated from the joint development of the Bell-Boeing team of Bell Helicopter under the United States Department of Defense Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental (JVX) aircraft program started in 1981. Boeing Helicopters won the development contract in 1983 for the tiltrotor aircraft. The V-22 Osprey first flew in 1989. The complexity and difficulties of being the first tiltrotor aircraft intended for military service led to many years of arduous development.
The first V-22 Osprey rolled out with significant media attention in May 1988. However, the project suffered several blows. That same year. The Army left the V-22 Osprey program, citing a need to focus its budget on more immediate aviation programs. The V-22 Osprey project also faced opposition in the Senate in 1989, surviving two votes that both could have resulted in cancellation. Despite the Senate’s decision, the Department of Defense instructed the Navy not to spend more money on the V-22 Osprey. When the projected development budget of V-22 Osprey greatly increased in 1988, Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney tried to cut its funding from 1989 to 1992. He was eventually overruled by Congress, which provided unrequested funding for the V-22 Osprey program. The Clinton Administration supported development of the V-22 Osprey and helped the program attain funding. Investment in the V-22 Osprey proved worthwhile as testing progressed with moderate support. Multiple studies of alternative aircraft found the V-22 Osprey provided more capability and combat effectiveness with similar operating costs as the alternatives.
The United States Marine Corps began crew training for the V-22 Osprey in 2000, and fielded it in 2007. The V-22 Osprey is supplementing and will eventually replace their CH-46 Sea Knights. Other operators of the V-22 Osprey include the U.S. Air Force, which fielded their version of the tiltrotor in 2009. Since entering service with the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force, the Osprey has been deployed for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The V-22 Osprey has since served in other countries and for non-military agencies as well.
On 28 September 2005, the Pentagon formally approved full-rate production for the V-22 Osprey. The plan entailed to boosting production from 11 a year to between 24 and 48 Osprey per year by 2012. Of the 458 total Osprey planned for production, 360 are for the Marine Corps, 48 for the Navy, and 50 for the Air Force at an average cost of $110 million per aircraft, including development costs. The V-22 Osprey had an incremental flyaway cost of $67 million per aircraft in 2008, but the Navy hopes to shave about $10 million off that cost after a five-year production contract in 2013. (more…)