Osprey’s Next Jobs: Tanker or AWACS?

FARNBOROUGH, England — The V-22 Osprey’s program manager and his counterparts with Bell and Boeing have some high-tech aspirations for the future of their iconic — and controversial — tiltrotor.

Marine Col. Greg Masiello told reporters at the air show here Monday that the Osprey has only scratched the surface of the kinds of missions it could eventually take. Today, the big birds mostly ferry troops and equipment on the battlefield, but as more Ospreys enter service with more militaries, they could attempt any number of new missions.

Masiello said program officials are looking into giving an Osprey the capability to serve as a mid-air refueling tanker, a sort of miniature KC-130, which could trail a drogue and refuel another aircraft equipped with a U.S. Navy-style probe. That could include another Osprey, the way Navy carrier jets refuel each other, or almost any other aircraft with a refueling probe.

Masiello also said there’s no limit to the kinds of command and control, intelligence sensing and reconnaissance equipment an Osprey could carry. Defense contractors have had success building “sleds” of equipment that can just roll onto Coast Guard C-130 or HC-144A airplanes, and a future Osprey could copy that model.

This led a reporter to ask Masiello if it were possible than an Osprey could someday replace the Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye carrier-borne early-warning aircraft. Anything’s possible, Masiello responded, and although he was clear that today there is no formal Navy or Defense Department interest in such a concept, y’never know.

  • blight_

    How much internal carry space does a V-22 have for a fuel tank and the appropriate equipment? Not much, I thought?

    • Charley A.

      And how many pounds of transferable fuel can they lift?

    • tiger

      A lot more than say the buddy tanks on a F/A-18 or S-3.

      • blight_

        Perhaps we need to invest in conformal tanks, like the Israelis have on their F-16’s. Though those have their own caveats.

    • cconway

      o24 troops (seated), 32 troops (floor loaded), or
      o20,000 lb (9,070 kg) of internal cargo, or up to 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) of external cargo (dual hook)
      o1× Growler light internally transportable ground vehicle
      Plenty of room. There is already a conceptual design of roll-on-roll-off kit with tanks and a hose feeding out the bottom.

      The AEW version is a bit more difficult. However, the UK, India, Italy all have a need for this capability for their carriers/amphibious ships. Should be an opportunity there.

  • Lance

    Hope not with the V-22s accident record I dont wont it for any other job.

  • jamesb

    sounds like a a/c LOOKING for MORE MISSONS……

  • Chris

    What about a carrier based spooky

    • guess

      Even better an Amphib based spooky. love the idea of giving an MEU its own dedicated gunship. Would come in handy pirate hunting. The possibilities…

      • Tonytitan

        Just imagine what a Spooky or Specter-configured Osprey could do to the “dreaded” Iranian terrorist boat swarm.

        • Guest

          Crash on them?

      • EW3

        Exactly right. Amphib based spooky.

        The whole idea of USMC air is to provide CAS. Spooky is the best at that.

  • Tad

    The first mission should be to survive the air show without crashing.

    • Earl

      Crashing like the Mig-29? Or the Airbus? Hmm…

    • Max

      And which air show was that? Learn some facts before you spout nonsense about my aircraft.

  • Black Owl

    I like the idea of another refueling aircraft on our carrier decks. I like Chris’ idea of a carrier-based spooky. I don’t like the idea of an AWACS. Why do we need it to be an AWACS when our current AWACS do the job much better? The E-2 Hawkeye is a purpose built AWACS and unless the V-22 can remain on station longer and have a lower accident rate I put my trust in the E-2 Hawkeye.

  • Guest

    What would the buffeting be like behind a v22 during refueling?

  • RunningBear

    The 58 C-2 Greyhound are getting long in the tooth (1989) and the commonality with the E-2D is slipping away. The C-2 vs. V-22; range without refueling 1300/ 880 nm,
    20.5/ 20 (15 external) Klb, 26/ 24 passengers, 82/ 0 knots (stall), 58/ 110 ct. (Jan 2012). Obviously the MV-22 will be the COD for the LHA/ LHD Gator Navy. Pros and Cons for both (USN), but feasible. ;)

    • cconway

      There is a real opportunity for the V-22 to capture the COD mission. Money is tight and the US Navy is slated to receive V-22s (according to the original plan, which the USN has not acted on to date) in the original contract. It is time for the US Navy to bring on a very capable asset that can land on all the amphibs, the carrier and most replenishment ships, in the form of a V-22 COD. The tanker and AEW&C version should be funded, developed and fielded in time to support our USS America (LHA-6) Amphibious Assault Ships, and perhaps a Light Carrier (LHA-6 with 20 F-35Bs). I can easily foresee a day that the USS Makin Island and a USS America Class Light Carrier so equipped, could respond to this “Island Hopping Menace” we are seeing develop in the Pacific. Cheaper that a full Carrier Strike Group.

  • Guest

    Sounds like they want to go down the road of ” mini carrier” with the amphibs. I thought that there are joint assets that were supposed to cover down on missions like that for AEW and refuel, among other things.

    • The Marines learned the lesson about relying on others for basic support at Guadalcanal. The MGTF is a fully integrated combat unit bringing every thing to the table Except AEW&C. If Light Carriers do come into the mix the tanker and AEW&C version will be necessary for when a CVBG is not available, which is probably going to be likely.

  • Dfens

    I vote for a tanker variant. Can you say, KABOOM! Hell, if you’re going to die anyway, it might as well be with a big ball of fire.

    • ghostwhowalksnz

      Doesnt need to land on a mountainside like combat versions. More like a taxi cab

  • FormerDirtDart

    Once you start putting all of the AWAC V-22s, Tanker V-22s, and Spooky V-22s on an LHA, where do you fit the V-22 V-22s?

  • Ben Hazi

    Its about time they use the Osprey for other missions rather than only troop transport. May be with it will gain more acceptance and its uniqueness will be seen.

  • TLAM Strike

    Still waiting for an SV-22 ASW Osprey to replaced the S-2 Viking.

    • TLAM Strike

      I meant S-3 Viking.

      • ghostwhowalksnz

        helicopters can do this part of the job sufficiently well.

    • Jed Figg

      Its the S-3B Viking to be exact

  • Anlushac11

    Use modular mission kits that slide in and out of the V-22’s cargo bay. KV-22 would carry as much fuel as the current Buddy pack systems. They would most likely be used to refuel aircraft trying to recover and low on fuel. Place some on return route to refuel as needed and do SAR if a bird goes down in area.

    RAF has looked at possibly of adapting its AEW package used in Westland Sea King ASaC7’s for V-22’s. USMC has good working rapport with Brits.

    V-22 is IMHO a natural for COD duties.

    Study idea of conformal fuel tanks to boost fuel load for tanker.

    • Josh

      Agreed, perfect platform for AEW on the new Queen Elizabeth carriers. Don’t know enough about tanking, but sounds like it’d be better than buddy to buddy (if that’s even possible with F35B’s).

    • ghostwhowalksnz

      Exactly . It can do both vertrep and deck landing. No need for an extra specialised type

  • robin

    A V-22 only has half the range and less payload than the C-2, and costs twice as much. A perfect fit for our new military.

  • MasterC

    If anyone reads the new inside information about V-22 problems at G2mil.com that’ll kill this discussion.

  • ltfunk2

    The future mission of the V-22 is static display.

    • William C.

      I’m sure somebody like you once said “the future of the helicopter is a static display” back in the 1940s.

    • tiger

      Hate club member?

  • Steven

    Cool, lets take an accident prone flying platform and make even more versions of it while eliminating systems that don’t have trouble staying in the air.

    • tiger


    • Dfens

      The defense schills have spoken. You dare not disagree.

    • Snafuperman

      Uh, please see F-14 and F-16 early history before making comments like that.

  • Pappa51

    I have to aggree with Steven. Seems like going in the wrong direction to me too. Such a shame so much time, and money, and lives; for such little return.

  • iamwillcummings

    im soooo gonna get some hate mail now….

  • bob

    V-22 osprey is a “TOTAL” piece of “JUNK”. Its a danger to our valuable Marines and a total waste to our taxpayers. Over $3,000 per hour to operate 1 engine. Come On!

  • iamwillcummings

    ok, i know im gonna be cannonized for saying this, but i like the osprey. think of the speed variant, think of the variable attachments looming in the near future…yes, it has like, the worst ever track record. does that mean the past 20 years of work should be flushed away? hell no. this thing can and will do things that we have not seen before. just give it a chance! …wish i could try one!!
    think of it like a horse thats blown its knee in every other race…just means a bigger payout whenever it wins!

  • Anthony

    I think it’s a perfect verticle envelopment platform. Throw some side hatches and mount some mini guns or Mark 19’s and you have a bad ass gunship. Picture the osprey in a 5000 foot hover firing laser guided hellfire missile being lit up by a spotter that just fast roped in. It’s a one stop shop. More with less

    • Dfens

      Yeah, do all that and it will make a great museum piece, ’cause it will never get off the ground.

      • blight_

        I think one would have better luck building ACH-47’s again; especially since the CH-47’s are still chugging.

    • blight_

      An might be to put a blister pod way to the rear of the V-22, which would allow it to fire foward and to the sides provided a means to synchronize ROF with propellors is devised. Then a means to safe the weapon from shooting into the engines when in hover mode.

      If the V-22 was a parasol wing with higher clearance between fuselage and wings, would that help with regards to clearance for weapons? It would also expose the transmission system of the Osprey to weapons fire, and presumably lead to a drag penalty that disadvantages the aircraft.

      Perhaps in the long run, something like the LiftSystem might be repurposed for the gunship of the future. Dorsal engine, shaft-driven ventral fan, ducts outboard for stability? (or just go NOTAR). In any case, we’re commited to tilt-rotor

  • phrogdriver

    Any legitimate criticisms of the V-22? Everyone goes to the same tired well of “deathtrap” or whatever that aren’t borne out by facts. Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. Get over it.

    An Osprey could save baby Jesus, and people would immediately say,”It’s a good thing he’s getting resurrected anyway!”

    BTW, G2mil is about as accurate and up to date as a horoscope from 1972.

    • Dfens

      Is there anyone who doesn’t think the V-22 is a death trap that’s not being paid to have that opinion?

      • William C.

        I’m getting paid for this? Why didn’t anybody tell me that? Who do I call at Bell or Boeing to pick up my internet comment Osprey supporter check?

        • Dfens

          So you don’t get a check from an aerospace company now, William?

          • William C.

            Not one of the big three. I don’t even know if we make any components for the Osprey.

          • Dfens

            Well, aren’t you useful…

    • cconway


  • fborgxx

    The Osprey has become better over time but for the money they have spent and just the fact that this aircraft cannot defend itself to me is a giant waste of money. It has a rear facing gun and unable to approach an LZ with a squad of Marines/Army and keep them protected. That to me just makes no sense. It reminds me of the Phantom that didn’t have a cannon to use in a dog fight. It had a gun that was eventually placed on the belly but it was a poor substitute for proper design and engineering. It still is an extremely deadly aircraft with its air to air and air to ground missiles but close in dog fighting gave the advantage to its enemy. When you look at a helicopter that was designed up for function of mission the first two that come to mind are the CH 53 AND 46. The UH-1, COBRA also are birds that did their job so well its sad to see them replaced. However, this Osprey is just not a well designed vehicle. The BLACKHAWK and APACHE are built mission specific just like the A-10 but this thing should be put out to pasture and replaced with a proper aircraft that can insert troops, defend them, supply them with range and speed. The Osprey has speed and range. It cannot quickly transition or evade and its heat signature is terrible. It can’t defend itself or troops that to me makes it a real lemon.

    • tiger

      Like a Ch53 or 46 is going to do better? That is not how things are done.

    • ONTIME

      What you say makes sense to me, this bird is just misused…

  • ondafritz

    Making a new reef off of the Florida coastline with the V-22 airframes makes sense to me. Grummand could also donate all of the extra EA-6B fuselages they have in storage and the B-2 would also make a good reef material

  • C-Low

    A AWACS and refueler style V-22 tagged onto a America class with a load out of F-35B’s would be a very formidable pocket carrier for “small war/conflict management” scenarios.

    I also don’t understand why no one has proposed a V-22 with a mag stick and maybe a dipper for ASW off all the above ships. The range of the V-22 running low (its designed for low) using the mag stick would be a deadly Littoral sub hunter. It would need some mods but it would operate like a mini P-3 mobile off ours and our allies landing ships, pocket carriers, hell even with load cut destroyers as a Lilly pad range extension. Our ASW helicopters need more range especially if we find ourselves in a major conflict were say our P-3/P-8’s in theater are down waiting for air field repairs after the daily constant BM shelling.

  • Boldar

    Set it up just like the AF C-130. Place desired package and crew in, serve mission, then go home. V22 Tilt Rotor capable ASW platform, surface assault platform for Tomahawks ALCM, air tropp deployment / assault vehicle, platform capability is limitless.

    • Dfens

      It’s just like the much larger C-130 in cost, but none of the other numbers are even close.

  • Tom Campbell

    How about a date with the scrap yard for this piece of Dangerous JUNK!!!

  • Eagle

    If the osprey ended up on a carrier deck as a double palm tree (unable to fold) it would most likely lock the deck and could not be put below on the hangar deck…..a huge operational problem. If it was made a COD, I would not bet on folding, so keep it turning, empty the cargo and launch it.

  • Sandhills007

    phrogdriver must be heavily invested in the Osprey – but as defense budgets get slimmed, many pet projects may have to get axed. At one time the AF wanted to axe the A-10, I seriously doubt the Osprey have the same loyalty and top cover to keep it’s funding. The Marines may have to suck it up – doubt the AF wants to keep it if it means cutting new tankers – and it already has a perception issue with the F-22. The Osprey is a hybrid that ain’t as good as a helo and ain’t as good as fixed wing for many of the missions it wants to find a niche in. Too much money to keep it = and when harder budget choices have to be made, cutting the Osprey will be an easy one.

  • Roy

    COST!, COST!, COST! Whats the trade off? Is it practical to add refueling capability to the V-22 in this budget “Crunch” time? Don’t add more maintence cost to keep the V-22 Cost per flying hour. What is the cost per flying hour now. Maintence cost is always forgotten when additional equipment is added to an airframe (From an ex HH-55 Jolly Green pilot and Squadron Commander.

  • CDRKentTOFret

    Re: the accident rate of the V-22.
    Its NASA predecessor was designed as a helicopter capable of wing-borne flight. NASA pilots reported it quite easy to control in all flight regimes. Unfortunately, the original V-22 PM, a Harrier pilot suffering acute recto-cranial impaction, wanted the flight controls to behave like the Harrier’s so (paraphrasing his words), “V-22 pilots wouldn’t suffer the stigma of flying anything like a helicopter.”

    Guess what? The Harrier [a fixed-wing aircraft capable of limited helicopter-like hovering flight] had been particularly prone to crashes in the transition from wing-borne to hovering flight. Sound a lot like the V-22? Of course. Human factors engineers (& uniformed Aerospace Engineering Psychologists) of my acquaintance (mostly at NASA-Ames) were appalled that the PM wasn’t relieved (he was soon promoted to Brigadier!). All predicted that that the V-22 would have a high accident rate, mostly involving approach to hover. Which is what has happened.

    In my view, a large proportion of V-22 crashes (and deaths and loss of millions of dollars) can and should be blamed on that PM’s inexcusable arrogance and unprofessional disdain for helicopter pilots.

    To a lesser degree, the Navy’s persistent failures to incorporate sound human factors engineering in systems design (especially in cockpits) is also to blame. It’s a recipe for failure to design the cockpit solely around the mission, incorporating all the latest and greatest bells and whistles and slick looking displays, expecting the pilot (operator) to adapt to the results. Instead, the cockpit (system) should be designed around the pilot’s (operator’s) PERFORMANACE of the mission, subject to all the stresses of the environment (comms, maintaining situational awareness, being shot at, making decisions, etc.). The Army found this out the hard way with the AH-64: only 10% or so of Army pilots could perform the full mission, and even those 10% struggled. The Longbow mod, an intensive human factors redesign, adapted the cockpit around pilot performance of the mission, and resulted in a feasible system. In the baseline V-22 case, a flight control system redesign around a mission of not crashing in the approach to a hover would be a great start.

    Re: use of the V-22 in an AEW/AWACS/EW role – I’d think that those two huge 3-bladed rotating radar reflectors would present a problem.

    Re: adapting the V-2 for a gunship role: fuselage-mounted forward firing weapons would work, as would flex mounts with suitable stops to prevent firing into the rotors/wings/empennage. It’d be pretty ugly.

    Re: self-defense – same problem as with AEW/AWACS/EW. The rotors would seriously compromise any threat sensors. [I recall VF and VA types enthusiastically describing how great a radar and IR target my SH-3 was: a V-22 is probably similar.]

    • Dfens

      There are fundamental design problems too. For one thing, there are 2 stable cg locations, one for hover and one for forward flight. This creates a situation where as the engines translate between the two, there is not enough control authority to keep the nose up. The “solution” to this problem is to transition through that zone at a high enough altitude so the plane doesn’t crash before the transition is complete. Which is nice.

      Then there is the asymmetric vortex ring state that has already killed a bunch of pilots. When the twin tornadoes hit the ground and coalesce, the aft flowing plume can be sucked back into one rotor or the other causing that rotor to lose all lift and generally killing everyone on board.

    • blight_
    • Guest

      @cdrkent: Longbow cockpit changes had more to do with weight savings than MANPRINT. Longbow crew station workload remains an issue to this day. Now back to our regularly scheduled V22 bash.

  • Greg

    COIN version


    How about setting it up for the Death from Above aircraft, using a Osprey for a mundane AWAC is infeasible, this bird despite it’s probs could be the best combat ferrying machine in the inventory and still be fitted for covering ground fire…

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about air. Regards