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The Future COD Aircraft Contenders: The Bell Boeing V-22

“Carrier Onboard Delivery” aircraft permit strike groups to stay at sea, provide persistent presence

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As big as an aircraft carrier is, it doesn’t have everything it needs at all times.  There’s always a need for high priority parts, mail needs to be picked up and delivered, and crew members are constantly rotating, not to mention the VIPS and media visitors who are always coming out to see the carrier in action. That’s the carrier onboard delivery mission, or COD, and the Navy is beginning to look for a future COD aircraft.

The C-1 Trader was one aircraft that fulfilled the COD mission. The C-1 was similar to the S-2 Tracker and E-1 AEW aircraft, all built by Grumman. The Grumman C-2 Greyhound was much larger, which first flew in 1964 and joined the fleet two years later. Later the U.S. Navy would replace the C-2 fleet with “reprocured” C-2As, so ordered so it wouldn’t have to be an entirely new acquisition program.

Today the Navy is considering its options in logistically supporting the carrier strike groups, and the Bell Boeing tiltrotor V-22 Osprey and upgraded C-2A Greyhounds are candidates for a future COD aircraft.

The Greyhound can be employed as a search and rescue (SAR) platform, and is also capable of airdropping a SEAL platoon along with its inflatable combat boat out of its ramp, and deploying the platoon after its release.

A carrier will usually deploy with a two aircraft detachment on a typical six-month deployment. The aircraft will transport more than one million pounds of cargo, carry 5,000 passengers and accumulate 1,000 flight hours.

V-22 Osprey

A V-22 Osprey assigned to the Argonauts of Marine Tiltrotor Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 22 lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), March 7, 2013. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brandon Parker

Helicopters have also played a role in the COD mission, for vertical onboard delivery, or VOD. During the 1980s, carriers operating in the Mediterranean with the U.S. Sixth Fleet might receive C-2s or CH-53Es on any given day. Later, several Lockheed S-3 Viking ASW aircraft were utilized as US-3As in the COD role. Today the Navy is considering its options in logistically supporting the carrier strike groups, and the Bell Boeing tiltrotor V-22 Osprey and upgraded C-2A Greyhounds are candidates for a future COD aircraft.

 

V-22 Osprey

Retired U.S. Marine Corps pilot Ken Karika now works on the V-22 COD project for Textron’s Bell Helicopter, which is proposing the V-22 Osprey as a future COD aircraft to replace the C-2A Greyhound used in the COD role.

A carrier will usually deploy with a two aircraft detachment on a typical six-month deployment. The aircraft will transport more than one million pounds of cargo, carry 5,000 passengers and accumulate 1,000 flight hours.

The V-22 flies at the [same] speed and lift capability for long range as the C-2,” Karika says. “For shorter ranges we can carry more – up to 20,000 pounds – and we can carry external loads suspended beneath the aircraft at up to 200 knots.  For internal payloads, the V-22 and the C-2A are evenly matched in terms of speed, range, and weight.”

Karika sees advantages in supporting carrier strike group (CSG) logistics with the V-22 as the Navy’s future COD aircraft. The current method is a hub-and-spoke where people and high priority cargo fly to the carrier aboard a C-2A and are then distributed to other ships in the CSG using helicopters.

Vertical Replenishment

Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Nick Kotoun, right, and Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Julius McGowan, center, hook a cargo net to an SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Proud Warriors of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42, Det. 7, as Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Archie Folks signals during a vertical replenishment exercise aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109), Feb. 22, 2013. If the V-22 is selected to perform the Navy’s COD mission, the current hub-and-spoke system might be replaced. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King

“The V-22 can take people and cargo directly to where needed. The escort doesn’t have to get close to the carrier in order to be in helicopter range. If it’s a critical repair item, the V-22 can deliver it directly to that ship, wherever it is, and that ship is back in the fight much quicker,” Karika says.

He flew the CH-46 Sea Knight and later the presidential VIP VH-3 and VH-60 aircraft before transitioning to the tiltrotor V-22. When Karika managed flight missions for the Marines in Iraq, many of the logistics missions had to be completed in two legs, taking two days due to the range limitations of helicopters and lack of runways at the Forward Operating Bases (FOB). A CH-46 might be used to send passengers and cargo from the Marine Air Wing operations hub at Al Asad Airbase to a remote location, necessitating flying A-leg one day and B-leg the next, possibly on a different aircraft. “We flew daily battlefield circulation missions with the 46s. The next day passengers might have to go out on a CH-53E to get to where they were going at one of the western bases,” Karika says. “It was very inefficient. And people might find their own way to where they were going, catching an ‘opportune lift,’ and we wouldn’t even know it.”

“In a littoral logistics situation, moving from ships to other ships and the shore, it’s all about cargo movement, mail distribution, casualty evacuation, passenger lift and supporting ground operations.”

That changed in September 2007 when V-22 squadron VMM 263 deployed to Iraq. “The V-22 reshaped our paradigms,” Karika says.

Prior to their arrival in theater, the wing staff monitored the logistics movements and prepared the daily ATO, or air tasking order, to move traffic between the air bases where passengers and cargo could transfer to the next leg. “It was all helicopters and the occasional KC-130,” Karika says. “Now, with the V-22, we had the legs to get to where we needed to go in one leg, without stopping overnight and possibly having to change aircraft. We didn’t need the B-leg. We got to be so efficient that we put helicopters on standby, and didn’t fly them if we didn’t need to.”

MV-22 Osprey

A sailor provides landing signal directions for an MV-22B Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 263 to land aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), Aug. 22, 2011. The aircraft was transferring an AV-8B Harrier engine, the first time this type of lift has been conducted at sea by an MV-22B. The Osprey can carry external loads suspended underneath the aircraft at up to 200 knots. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 3rd Class James Turner

“We were moving thousands of people around the battle space, and millions of pounds of cargo,” says Karika. “We were the end of the supply chain. With the V-22 we were able to carry more, and do it faster. And because we didn’t have to split the mission up, we essentially removed a step.”

“In a littoral logistics situation, moving from ships to other ships and the shore, it’s all about cargo movement, mail distribution, casualty evacuation, passenger lift and supporting ground operations,” Karika says. “The V-22’s combination of speed, payload, range, and vertical takeoff and landing makes it a real enabler for those kinds of missions.”

The biggest difference was learning how to fly a tilt rotor. “You’re a helicopter pilot one minute, and a fixed wing pilot the next,” he says.

“The real advantage is speed and range,” he says. “In near distance replenishment, we speak in terms of rate. How many supply runs can you make compared to a CH-46 or an SH-60 in the same amount of time? The V-22 can move two to three times the same amount of payload over a given time when compared to a helicopter, making the V-22 a more affordable logistics option.” 

Karika says the V-22 is certified for several different ship flight decks. He says it’s already certified to land on amphibs, aircraft carriers, and logistics ships such at the T-AKE. He hopes efforts will soon get underway to certify it for hospital ships and small combatant ships in the Navy’s inventory. “The prop rotors don’t go past the nose of the V-22, so you can get in close on a relatively small flight deck.”

MV-22 Osprey

An MV-22 Osprey from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 161 conducts flight operations on the flight deck aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Anchorage (LPD 23), April 22, 2013. The Osprey requires some adjusting for pilots accustomed to flying helicopters, but it also carries some big advantages. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexander Quiles

Karika says the transition from the CH-46 to the V-22 was not an effortless one, because there were so many improvements. “The V-22 has fly-by-wire controls and an all-glass cockpit. We went from gauges to digital. And all that raw power put the V-22 in a class by itself.”

“It’s easier to fly, too. When ‘on wing,’ the pilot can ‘couple it up,’ which means engage the autopilot. All the flight deck crew needs to do is dial in heading changes and the aircraft does the rest. The V-22 can be programmed to fly a route and terminate in a 50-foot hover over a pre-determined spot.

The aircraft has a 600-pound hoist fitted to the ramp. The cabin can be configured for 12 non-ambulatory patients and five seats for medical attendants.

The biggest difference was learning how to fly a tilt rotor. “You’re a helicopter pilot one minute, and a fixed wing pilot the next,” he says.

Karika recalls flying from Yuma, Ariz. to New River, N.C. with his CH-46 squadron. “It took three days. We made the same trip in a single day with a V-22.”

USS Wyoming (SSBN 742)

A CV-22 Osprey from Air Force Special Operations Command performs a proof of concept for personnel evacuation from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) June 6, 2012. The CV-22 from Cannon Air Force Base also demonstrated the utility of its range by refueling four times on its way to and from the Wyoming. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) James Kimber

The Osprey can refuel inflight from a KC-130 tanker. “With air refueling capability, a KC-130 can pull a flight of V-22s across the U.S. within a 12-hour crew day.”

To prove the utility of this range, a CV-22 flew from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. across the country to the USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) to perform a simulated medical evacuation of a crewmember. “The V-22 refueled from the tanker twice, reaches the Wyoming at sea and hovers above her while they lower a litter onto the submarine. The patient is then hoisted up and brought inside where there is room for casualties and medical staff. The aircraft then heads back home, refueling twice more from the tanker.”

The aircraft has a 600-pound hoist fitted to the ramp. The cabin can be configured for 12 non-ambulatory patients and five seats for medical attendants.

To prove the utility of this range, a CV-22 flew from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. across the country to the USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) to perform a simulated medical evacuation of a crewmember.

Karika says the V-22 has another feature not found on a lot of rotary wing aircraft, and that’s anti-icing. “The V-22 is cleared for flight in moderate icing,” he says. This, along with an integrated weather radar, provide the self-deploy capability both the Air Force and Marines have used to reposition Ospreys around the globe.

Bell is building 360 Ospreys for the Marines, 50 for the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), and 48 for the Navy. About 230 have been delivered so far.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...