V-22 Program Stays the Course as Crash Investigated

 - April 20, 2012, 2:05 PM
An MV-22 Osprey lifts off from the U.S.S. Kearsarge earlier this year. Operations remained on track despite an April 11 crash, program officials said. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Program officials say the procurement objectives and operations of the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey remain on track as the U.S. Navy investigates the latest crash of the tiltrotor.

Two U.S. Marines were killed and two were injured April 11 when an MV-22 crashed while participating in Exercise Africa Lion 2012 with the Moroccan Armed Forces. The aircraft, operating from the amphibious assault ship U.S.S. Iwo Jima, “had just dropped off Marines at a training event and was conducting a routine flight” when it crashed in the vicinity of Cap Draa, Morocco, the service said. There have been six V-22 crashes with 36 total fatalities since 1991.

In a briefing April 16 at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition in National Harbor, Md., Marine Col. Greg Masiello, V-22 program manager with the Naval Air Systems Command, said operations “remain unchanged” as the Navy investigates the accident. “The MV-22s and the [Special Operations Command] CV-22s are operating and performing every mission that they did before that last event and we’re confident in the platform,” Masiello said. “At this time, we have no indications of anything that would draw us to the conclusion to change operations.”

Also unchanged are plans to expand the MV/CV-22 fleet to 200 aircraft, with the delivery of 39 Ospreys this year, and to conclude a second multi-year procurement (MYP2) contract by year-end. John Rader, Bell-Boeing V-22 vice president, said there will be “a relatively dramatic ramp-down in annual deliveries” from around 40 aircraft now to 21 aircraft in the first year of MYP2 as required by Department of Defense budget reductions. The program of record calls for 360 MV-22s for the Marines, 50 CV-22s for Socom and 48 MV-22s–currently an unfunded requirement–for the Navy.

The Navy is also considering the V-22 as one of a number of options to replace the fixed-wing Northrop Grumman C-2 Greyhound in resupplying aircraft carriers as well as smaller ships. Masiello said a Navy analysis of alternatives is in the final stage.

Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1), the unit that transports the President and other high-level officials, will begin receiving the MV-22 next year to serve in a supporting role. The tiltrotor will start ferrying the retinue of staff, Secret Service and press that accompanies the President beginning in 2014, replacing the squadron’s CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters.

Masiello said HMX-1 will have a complement of 12 Ospreys in green livery rather than the “white-top” scheme that signifies the presidential VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters. The latter aircraft will eventually be replaced by the planned VXX helicopter.