Bell Boeing has flown the first example of the CMV-22B Osprey, a version of the tiltrotor tailored for a life at sea with the U.S. Navy. The first flight took place at Bell’s Amarillo Assembly Center in Texas on January 21.
The Navy is to become the third U.S. service to operate the Osprey, following the Marine Corps (MV-22) and Air Force Special Operations Command (CV-22). The CMV-22B is to replace the Grumman C-2A Greyhound in the carrier onboard delivery (COD) role, flying personnel, mail, supplies, and spares between shore bases and aircraft carriers at sea. Compared with the fixed-wing Greyhound that is tied to the carrier, the tiltrotor Osprey offers greater mission flexibility by being able to conduct operations from other vessels in the fleet. The plan to employ the Osprey in the COD role—at the time with the designation of HV-22—was affirmed in early 2015, and production was launched in 2018.
To meet Navy specifications the CMV-22B is provided with extra fuel, housed in enlarged fuselage-side sponsons. “With the ability to travel up to 1,150 nautical miles, the CMV-22B will be a lifeline for our servicemen and women out at sea,” commented Kristin Houston, vice president, Boeing tiltrotor programs and director, Bell Boeing V-22 program. “The quality and safety built into this aircraft will revolutionize the way the U.S. Navy fulfills its critical carrier onboard delivery mission.”
Bell Boeing will shortly deliver the first aircraft to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 21 at Patuxent River, Maryland, for developmental test. HX-21 “Blackjack” is the Naval Air Warfare Center-Aircraft Division’s rotary-wing test unit, tasked with the developmental test and evaluation of helicopters and tiltrotors for both the Navy and Marine Corps.
Navy personnel of the first CMV-22B operational squadron—VRM-30 “Titans” at NAS North Island, California—have been training on Marine Corps MV-22s since late 2018 in preparation for receiving the first tiltrotors. The first carrier deployment is scheduled for 2021 aboard the USS Carl Vinson. This is also scheduled to be the first deployment for the Lockheed Martin F-35C, and a key requirement of the C-2 replacement program is that the new COD platform can carry large components of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine that powers the F-35. Two more squadrons (VRM-40 and VRM-50) are planned for equipment with the CMV-22B, and the C-2A is expected to retire in 2024.