April 4, 2007
MV-22 on track for Initial Operational Capability
WASHINGTON, USA ( News Release from NAVAIR, V-22 Osprey Joint Program Office ) -
The MV-22 Osprey has accomplished two major steps required
for initial operational capability (IOC) with completion of a major
Block B operational test period and a successful IOC Supportability
Review pre-board, program officials announced at a press conference
Col. Mathew Mulhern, V-22 Osprey Joint Program Manager, and Gene
Cunningham, Bell Boeing V-22 Deputy Program Manager, briefed reporters
at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Expo in Washington on the MV-22's
progress toward combat readiness. The Marine Corps' tiltrotor is
expected to earn the go-ahead this summer for operational deployment,
bolstered in part by the aircraft's high performance under
mission-representative testing in February and March.
Marine Tiltrotor Test and Evaluation Squadron 22 (VMX-22) put the Block
B Osprey - the combat configuration of the aircraft - through its paces
for that evaluation period, known to testers as OT-IIIA. Crews completed
120 Block B flight hours and an additional 65 hours on Block A aircraft,
in real-world scenarios over 18 days in the California and Arizona
deserts. Crewmembers from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (VMM-263)
and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204 (VMMT-204) also
"Although the official test report won't be issued until later this
month, initial results tell us that the Osprey really showed its full
potential, both in terms of mission performance and reliability,"
Mulhern says. Block B improvements for the Bell Boeing tiltrotor include
the Ramp Mounted Weapon System, retractable refueling probe, personnel
hoist and fast rope system, mission auxiliary tanks, and numerous
reliability and maintainability upgrades.
"The aircraft did very well. We were actually above our normal
mission-capable averages for those three weeks," says Lt. Col. Denny
Sherwood, VMX-22 aircraft maintenance officer. Maintenance resources and
supplies were all in keeping with standard deployment planning, he says.
"We had the aircraft we needed to accomplish all the missions despite
the high op tempo."
Those missions included a 2,100 mile self-deployment, assault raids,
company insertions, recon insertions and extractions, casualty
evacuations, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, noncombatant
evacuation operations, and battlefield logistics. Missions involved fast
rope and personnel hoist operations, external lift of the M777
Lightweight Howitzer, 1,200 rounds fired from the Ospreys' M-240D
ramp-mounted machine guns, and 22 aerial refuelings. A third of the
flying was done at night, including eight aerial refuelings.
Crews faced multiple ground threats day and night, to validate and
refine the tactics, techniques and procedures for objective area entry
and threat reaction. They also integrated their operations with F/A-18
Hornets, AV-8 Harriers and AH-1 Cobras. For troop delivery and recovery
missions, the MV-22s carried 22 to 24 Marines, along with their gear.
Average mileage per mission was 725 nautical miles, with the four VMX-22
aircraft logging a total of 30,000 miles during the evaluation period.
"We absolutely went out there and operated in a very operationally
representative manner," says VMX-22 Commanding Officer Col. Keith Danel.
"You name it, we did it, and the aircraft held up very well. And we
operated it in a gritty, windy, austere environment, and maintained a
very high tempo."
The Marine Corps has extensive experience operating the Osprey in the
desert, and Sherwood said many maintenance lessons have been learned
along the way. Besides prior operational testing in the desert in 2004
and 2005, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (VMM-263) completed an
extended training deployment to Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif., in
September and October 2006.
Operating under deployed conditions in the sand, squadron maintainers
generated mission capable rates with their Block B Ospreys on par with
goals for actual deployment.
"We know that if the Osprey deploys to the desert, it's going to see the
same increased wear and tear that the every other aircraft sees over
there. So we've planned our logistics support accordingly," Mulhern
On March 23, the Osprey program earned a passing grade on its logistics
support plans for first deployment from the final IOC Supportability
Review pre-board, which has convened every six months over the last two
years to track logistics planning.
"It's not enough to give a capable aircraft system to the operators. You
have to deliver it with all the support necessary to keep those aircraft
up and flying over the long haul, whenever and wherever they're needed,"
The IOC Supportability Review board membership includes the Second
Marine Aircraft Wing, Commander Naval Air Forces, Marine Forces Command,
the Naval Air Systems Command, Naval Inventory Control Point and other
key agencies. Their endorsement will be a required precursor for the
Marine Corps to declare the Osprey ready for deployment. That decision
is expected this summer, following a positive OT-IIIA report and final
capability additions to VMM-263's Block B Ospreys.
Beyond the positive performance of the aircraft and identification of
remaining corrective action items, Danel says OT-IIIA has larger
implications for validating the acquisition strategy adopted by the
Marine Corps and Program Office for the MV-22. He points out that while
the formal Block B operational test period has only just concluded,
individual Block B capabilities have been tested incrementally over the
last year and delivered to the Fleet for training and integration as
soon as they were cleared.
"We've produced interim assessment reports on capabilities as they've
been available. ... In the old acquisition system, we would have done
OT-IIIA and then cleared the Fleet to fly Block B. Because we've
released capabilities as they've been tested, the squadrons are nine
months to a year ahead of where they would have been. It really speaks
volumes about the successfulness of spiral development, spiral testing
and interim reporting."
"It's up to the Marine Corps and the Department of Defense to decide
when and where to deploy this aircraft," Mulhern said. "But we're
committed to ensuring they have the capability they need and all the
support to employ it anywhere in the world."
News: Bell-Boeing Team Begins CV-22 Support at Hurlburt Field ( Nov 17, 2006 )
News: USMC MV-22 Osprey completes non-stop flight ( Jun 16, 2006 )
News: VMM-263 become first operational MV-22 Osprey squadron ( Mar 4, 2006 )
News: VMMT-204 graduates first Osprey crew chiefs ( Feb 8, 2006 )
News: Bell Boeing Delivers First V-22 Block B ( Dec 8, 2005 )
News: DoD Approves V-22 Full Rate Production ( Sep 28, 2005 )
News: MV-22 resume flight testing ( Feb 28, 2002 )