The Coming of the Osprey to the US Navy Carrier Deck

By Robbin Laird

Recently, I had a chance to visit Naval Air Station Patuxent River and to meet with Col Matthew Kelly, who is in charge of the V-22 Joint Program Office (PMA-275).

The Osprey is in the process of change.

One key aspect of the change facing the V-22 community: the Navy becoming an operator of the Osprey for the carrier resupply mission and the Japanese becoming the first FMS customer for the aircraft.

In an article by Gidget Fuentes published by USNI News on October 15, 2019, the preparation of the US Navy for the coming of the Osprey to the carrier deck was highlighted.

The Navy last week took another step foward in its transition to the next-generation fleet of logistics aircraft to support its carrier strike groups.

The service established Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Wing 1, or COMVRMWING, at a ceremony on Oct. 10 at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado.

Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, who commands Naval Air Forces, selected Capt. Dewon “Chainsaw” Chaney to command the new wing and become the first commodore who will oversee the manning, training, equipping and integration of the CMV-22B Osprey into fleet operations including cargo and passenger transportation.

The CMV-22B Osprey aircraft will replace the Navy’s aging fleet of twin-engine turboprop C-2A Greyhounds that serve as the carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft and have ferried passengers, equipment, gear and supplies from mail to spare parts around the fleet since the C-2A became operational in 1965.

The twin-engine, tilt-rotor Osprey has a vertical and short take-off and landing design and hovering capability that allows it to operate off ships’ flight decks and landing zones ashore. The “C” variant of the MV-22 Osprey, operated by a four-member crew, has advanced avionics and navigation systems and a larger fuel system for longer range than the Marine Corps’ variant.

Its increased range, speed and payload provides the Navy with a boost in COD capabilities over the Greyhound, which comes and goes from shore to aircraft carriers through catapult launches off and tailhook trap landings. Whereas the fixed-wing Greyhound is limited to landing on the carrier, the V-22 can land on a range of smaller ships, making it a more flexible platform for moving people and goods around the sea.

In assigning Chaney as the wing commodore, the Navy selected a veteran helicopter pilot who’s tallied experience in several rotary-wing aircraft: the SH-60B and MH-60S Seahawk, the CH-46D Sea Knight and the MV-22 Osprey. He most recently commanded Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 3 at North Island.

“This community’s stand-up is a joint endeavor and will bring unmatched capability to a carrier strike group near you,” Chaney said during the establishment ceremony, according to a Naval Air Forces news article. He called the Osprey “a game-changer to combat logistics in our carrier strike groups. We will uphold the high standards of naval aviation as premier warfighter enablers.”

This means that the original plank holders of the program, AFSOC and the Marine Corps, are being jointed by an expanded set of users.

In turn, this places a demand on the program to do a better job with regard to global sustainment but also provides the opportunity to leverage the budgets of additional stakeholders to expand the sustainment infrastructure as well.

“There is no other air platform that has the breadth of aircraft laydown across the world than does the V-22.

“And now that breadth is expanding with the inclusion of the carrier fleet and the Japanese. We currently have a sustainment system which works but we need to make it better in terms of supporting global operations.

“With the US Navy onboard to operate the Osprey as well, we will see greater momentum to improve the supply chain.”

Col. Kelly noted that with the maturation of the fleet, the program has quite accurate fleet metrics and are using these metrics to shape their Performance Based Logistics contracts going forward.

Rather than tying incentives to piecemeal elements of the aircraft, the shift in focus has been upon decreasing the non-mission capable rates in the fleet.

“If fleet non-mission capable rates go down, Bell and Boeing receive more money.”

He also argued that as manufacturing experience has improved and the quality of the initially produced aircraft are better, providing a boon to fleet performance.

“The aircraft that is coming off of the line today as part of the multi-year three contract is much different than the ones produced in multi-year one or two,” he said.

“You are seeing a much more reliable airplane from the outset which requires much lower maintenance man hours per flight hour as well.”

In short, the V-22 team is making the aircraft smarter to go along with its range and speed physical capabilities.

And the maturing of the manufacturing processes is delivering a reliable aircraft.

But as the Navy becomes a direct user of the aircraft along with the Japanese, there are new challenges facing the program, most notably, how to provide better global sustainment to the global fleet of aircraft.

Put broadly, the aircraft which replaced the CH-46 became a physically wondrous asset that changed how the Marines could operate in the Middle East land wars to now becoming part of the fifth-generation revolution.

Featured Photo: MV-22B on the deck of USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). Gidget Fuentes Photo