The Marine Corps is working on training V-22 Osprey crews faster in order to keep pace with the growing demand for the tilt-rotor aircraft, officials said.
With its ability to hover like a helicopter and fly like an airplane, cargo carrying capacity, 280-knot speed and 450 nautical mile combat radius, the Osprey is proving to be an indispensable asset for amphibious and expeditionary Corps units involved in training exercises, humanitarian missions and other operations.
"We are producing them," Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for aviation, recently told reporters. "We can’t train the crews fast enough."
Officials said the service was now making plans to train more maintainers as a way to meet the fast-rising demand for the aircraft.
The V-22 450-nautical-mile combat radius is far greater than that of some of the aircraft it's replacing. Many of the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters are being replaced by the Osprey.
"The MV-22B is able to carry a significantly greater payload than the aircraft it is replacing, the CH-46, at twice the speed and range - over 60% greater range than any other rotorcraft, and more with aerial refueling," Maj. Paul Greenberg said in a written statement to Military.com.
"The MV-22B is an extremely maneuverable aircraft with a large and versatile operating flight envelope which far outstrips that of the legacy CH-46 helicopter it replaced," he said. "That envelope, and the procedures which govern the safe operation of the aircraft, are effective in both combat and peacetime operations. There are no separate aircraft operating limitations for either environment."
Gen. Davis also talked about ongoing efforts to network the Osprey with what’s called "digital interoperability," an effort to provide Marines in the back of the aircraft with a high-tech tactical picture of their landing zone. The technology is currently being used by the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and is slated to be operational in 2017, Greenberg added.
The MV-22 will be the first Corps aviation platform to be equipped with this technology.
The Marines are also engineering the Osprey to conduct operational aerial refueling missions by 2018. The V-22 Aerial Refueling System, or VARS, will be able to refuel the Marine Corps variant of the F-35 with 4,000 pounds of fuel, Greenberg explained.
"MV-22B VARS capacity will increase to 10,000 pounds of fuel by 2019. This will significantly enhance the F-35B's range, as well as the aircraft's ability to remain on target for a longer period," he said.
VARS will also be able to refuel the CH-53K helicopter, F/A-18 fighter and the AV-8B Harrier.