Bell Helicopter announced yesterday that it had successfully demonstrated a forward-firing capability aboard the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. The exercise was conducted at the United States Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona, according to a company release.
“The forward-firing demonstration was a great success,” said Vince Tobin, vice president and program manager for the Bell Boeing V-22. “We’ve shown the V-22 can be armed with a variety of forward-facing munitions, and can hit their targets with a high degree of reliability. Congratulations to the team who has worked from initial design to completion of this demonstration.”
Should further testing in various parts of the flight envelope prove successful, it could mean a significantly more formidable weapons capability for the V-22, allowing it to fly more self-escorted missions and depend on more than sheer speed for protection.
While the V-22 has rebuffed most of its critics with safe operation, improving mission capable rates, and outstanding battlefield capabilities in deployments to Afghanistan, the Mediterranean, and the Persian Gulf, one remaining knock against the aircraft has been its relatively light armament, with a single pintle-mounted machine gun usually located on the rear ramp. The belly-mounted Interim Defensive Weapons System (IDWS) with a 7.62mm minigun and a sensor on 360 degree mounts in the Osprey’s belly has been developed, but the system is heavy, weighing approximately 800 pounds.
Reportedly, the Osprey fired Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) and Griffin B missiles during the testing. Photos show a rocket pod mounted below the cockpit on the port side of the aircraft, and what appears to be an APKWS being fired. Should further testing in various parts of the flight envelope prove successful, it could mean a significantly more formidable weapons capability for the V-22, allowing it to fly more self-escorted missions and depend on more than sheer speed for protection.
“Integrating a forward firing capability to the Osprey will increase its mission set,” Tobin continued. “These weapons, once installed, will provide added firepower and reduce reliance on Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs) which are sometimes necessary to supply short range attack rotorcraft in support of V-22 operations. Without the need for FARPs, V-22s can be launched more frequently, and on shorter notice.”