Robust logistics systems win wars on land and at sea. The importance of moving critical personnel, parts, munitions, medical supplies, and the world’s most advanced fighters’ power plant around the fleet will become a limiting factor unless the Navy reassesses its approach to contested logistics and ultimately procures the equipment required to win decisively.
With geopolitical tensions rising globally, the U.S. and its allies are closer than they have been in decades to conflict. Increased capabilities demonstrated by potential adversaries are driving the need for rapid development of modern warfighting systems along with a renewed focus on industrial capacity and production.
Pentagon planners must reconsider whether we have the capabilities to deter and defeat our adversaries and determine whether we have the industrial base in place to support protracted conflict.
If deterrence fails and conflict occurs, naval commanders will have to resupply their forces over vast distances, posing significant operational challenges where force structure does not match its combat logistics requirements. In the case of an Indo-Pacific conflict, the Navy needs to be prepared for a scenario not seen since the 1940s.
The size of the Pacific, and the potential logistical capability gaps that will come to light when executing expeditionary advanced base operations and distributed maritime operations, commanders will spend as much time planning how to support the force as they will to employ it.
The requirement to move passengers and cargo between dispersed expeditionary advanced bases, forward logistic support sites, and ships at sea will prioritize the need for a dedicated logistics connector that leverages tiltrotor technology.
Enter the solution
The V-22 delivers operational flexibility with the speed and range to move cargo and forces to support a distributed force in a contested environment. The flexibility the V-22 has demonstrated over decades of performance, including combat, paved the way for the Navy to develop its own variant of the Osprey, the CMV-22.
Tiltrotor technology provides the Navy with the overmatch and operational flexibility it needs to solve the problems of contested logistics and support the fleet when operating as a distributed force. Just as the Marine Corps and Air Force found new and creative ways to leverage tiltrotor technology, the Navy will also learn how to operate and integrate the Osprey into the fleet. The Osprey is unique in it can support and sustain the fleet while simultaneously augmenting the Carrier Airwing’s combat capability and lethality.
Bell Boeing has decades of experience producing Ospreys, and that expertise will be required to continue to sustain and upgrade the V-22 for decades. Protecting the nation’s only tiltrotor industrial base is critical to ensure the Navy is ready to meet the required logistical throughput of extended combat both in the littorals and at sea.
If the Navy is going to leverage the CMV-22 to solve complex logistics problems in contested environments and fully support the fleet, additional aircraft beyond the current program of record will be required. The Navy must recognize the reality that the V-22 production line will someday come to an end and leverage the opportunity to add to the program of record to reap the benefits this aircraft can bring to warfighting logistics.
Beyond the question of additional procurement, the CMV community will also have to answer the question of what else can it do to support the Carrier Air Wing of the Future. The 2020 Navigation Plan and the Tri-Service Maritime Strategy make it clear the Navy will be involved in long-term competition for decades.
If the Navy finds itself in a fight at sea and in the littorals, it may have to consider how to employ the CMV beyond its logistics role. As with the fielding of any new weapons system, there is always a propensity to undertake a crawl, walk, run approach. The question the CMV community and the Navy will have to wrestle with: How long before the CMV hits its stride and starts to run?
The Air Force has been successful flying their variant, the CV-22, demonstrating its advantages over the H-60 when it comes to:
- Combat radius.
- Ability to fly in adverse weather.
The speed and extended range of the CMV, coupled with its ability to concentrate and respond rapidly, could provide commanders the operational reach to quickly seize the initiative in a combat search and rescue (CSAR) role.
The CMV’s speed is more efficient than a conventional helicopter and can recover injured aircrews quicker within the “golden hour,” increasing survivability. Its aerial refueling capability decreases mission complexity, eliminating surface ship support requirements, and the CMV’s faster recovery reduces the likelihood that an adversary can mass forces on downed aircrews before friendly forces arrive.
The CMV’s speed and endurance could be a game-changer for Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) commanders. Its integration into the Navy tactical grid could increase the number of contacts located, and with upgraded networks and data links, it could create a more informed common operating picture and improve the Navy, and even joint forces’, tactical grid.
An ASuW mission could be more successful because of CMV-22, and advanced capabilities like the Ford-class CVN, the joint strike fighter, Expeditionary Sea Basing, and Expeditionary Fast Transport could ultimately see their full potential with a fast, long-range, runway-independent rotary wing capability like the CMV-22.
The Navy must consider the possibility of a ship seriously damaged at sea when planning for contingencies in the vast Pacific. The CMV’s multi-mission flexibility and ability to be dynamically re-tasked from intra-theater aerial logistics to casualty/medical evacuation (casevac/medevac) to long-range patient movement is unmatched for this scenario.
The ability to provide rapid patient movement will save lives. Without CMV-22, it could take days versus hours to move casualties from damaged ships to shore-based medical facilities. The larger cabin, when compared to the H-60, gives the CMV the ability to conduct multiple rescues before the cabin is full. In contrast, the legacy C-2 does not operate with passengers at night and a “catapult-shot” or an arrested landing of a seriously wounded or injured sailor is a non-starter.
This introduction to future CMV mission-sets is by no means an all-inclusive list and will require more intellectual, operational and financial resources. Commanders are just beginning to understand what the CMV brings to the fight.
It is only a matter of time before the Navy, and possibly even combatant commanders, realize exactly what a force multiplier the CMV-22 will be. An updated concept of operation (CONOP) could provide warfighters a new vision for how the CMV is employed.
Here are some of the many possibilities:
- Electronic warfare.
- Deploying naval special warfare forces:
- By either high, or low altitude parachute drop
- With a combat rubber raiding craft.
It is time for the Navy to modernize its vertical lift assets. The CMV-22 is ready to be part of that modernization effort and deliver the versatility, speed, range and overmatch that cannot be replicated by current systems.
Continued investment in tiltrotor technology will provide the Navy with a more capable, sustainable and versatile weapons system while protecting the tiltrotor industrial base.
Both of these are critical to ensuring the Navy is ready to meet the logistical throughput that will be required if we face a future of extended combat and will demonstrate our national resolve to deal with the logistical challenges we will face in the next fight.
Chris Misner is Senior Manager, Bell Military Sales & Strategy
Featured Photo: A CMV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft assigned to the “Titans” of Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30, prepares to land at Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo (CFAS) while conducting passenger and cargo transfer operations. February 23, 2022, U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeremy Graham.