Bell Boeing delivered the first of a planned 48 CMV-22B Ospreys to the U.S. Navy on February 10, the aircraft having first flown late in 2019. Handed over at the factory in Amarillo, Texas, the aircraft will go to U.S. Navy squadron HX-21 “Blackjack” at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, for developmental test and evaluation trials. The variant is intended to replace the aging Northrop Grumman C-2 Greyhound in the carrier onboard delivery (COD) role, ferrying passengers and cargo between ship and shore.
Using a tiltrotor platform for the COD role instead of a fixed-wing transport significantly increases flexibility, as the CMV-22B is not confined to operations at sea from just the carrier. To prepare it for the role and to meet Navy range requirements, Bell Boeing has developed larger fuel tanks housed in enlarged fuselage-side sponsons. The CMV-22B can carry 6,000 pounds over more than 1,150 nm. Another key requirement is for a cabin large enough to transport major components of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine that powers the Lockheed Martin F-35C that recently achieved IOC with the Navy.
The F-35C is due to undertake its first carrier deployment aboard USS Carl Vinson in 2021, and the CMV-22B will also make its operational debut at that time. Navy crews have been training on the Marine Corps MV-22B version for some time, and the first operational squadron—VRM-30 “Titans”—was established at NAS North Island, California, in December 2018. Two more units, VRM-40 at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, and VRM-50 at a base in the Western Pacific region, are to follow.