Bell Helicopter is exploring new markets and missions for its Bell-Boeing Osprey V-22 military tiltrotor.
The company recently demonstrated the V-22’s search-and-rescue (SAR) capabilities to the Canadian Forces. The V-22 is ideally suited to the SAR mission in Canada, with its vast distances and harsh environments, and could do the work of several aircraft on a typical mission, according to a Bell spokesman.
The spokesman said a Canadian civil/military SAR mission to a remote location currently involves the use of fixed-wing aircraft for identification and emergency supply drop and then a helicopter or a ground unit for rescue. “With the V-22 you can get there, land, pick up the people and come home, thereby eliminating a bunch of different steps,” he said.
The Canadian SAR application for the V-22 is still in the “idea” stage and the Canadian government has not issued a formal request for proposal, said the spokesman.
Bell sees Canadian SAR as just one way the V-22 can cut overall mission cost by reducing the number of aircraft and supporting infrastructure needed to fly a given mission. The spokesman added that the U.S. Marine Corps’ fleet of MV-22s–with their increased range, unrefueled up to 1,000 nm, over a traditional helicopter–eliminate the need for forward fueling points. The MV-22 could also transfer cargo between multiple ship types in the U.S. Navy more efficiently than delivering expedited freight to aircraft carriers via fixed-wing cargo aircraft and then transferring it to helicopters for forwarding to smaller ships. The Marine Corps has already used an MV-22 for this purpose. On August 22 an MV-22 was used to airlift via sling load a 6,500-pound AV-8B Harrier replacement jet engine and container from the supply ship USNS Wally Schirra to the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan.
Bell is developing or has developed a variety of new applications for the V-22, including aerial refueling of other aircraft, cargo delivery, search-and-rescue, combat search-and-rescue, medevac and C2ISR. The V-22 already regularly performs cargo, SAR and evacuation missions. According to Bell, the CV-22 variant already has an approved medevac configuration using off-the-shelf parts, and Bell is working with the U.S. Army to further define a medevac interior. Bell is working on a “giver” V-22 aerial refueling package for fixed- and rotary-wing platforms and is collaborating with Thales to incorporate its Searchwater radar into the back of the aircraft. The aircraft is already equipped with an external hoist over the aft ramp. All of the various mission configurations can be palletized/modularized for quick-change, multi-mission capabilities.
The in-service fleet of 142 V-22s has accumulated 115,000 flight hours.