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.

36 Comments on "Osprey’s Next Jobs: Tanker or AWACS?"

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

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

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

  4. What about a carrier based spooky

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

  6. 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.

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

  8. RunningBear | July 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Reply

    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. ;)

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. FormerDirtDart | July 9, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Reply

    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?

  12. 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.

  13. TLAM Strike | July 9, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Reply

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

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

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. iamwillcummings | July 10, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Reply

    im soooo gonna get some hate mail now….

  21. 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!

  22. iamwillcummings | July 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Reply

    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!

  23. 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

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. Tom Campbell | July 11, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Reply

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

  30. 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.

  31. Sandhills007 | July 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Reply

    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.

  32. 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.

  33. CDRKentTOFret | July 12, 2012 at 1:26 am | Reply

    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.]

  34. COIN version

  35. 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…

  36. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about air. Regards

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