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Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: SR-71 Blackbird (starboard profile)
rapid prototype machining
Image by Chris Devers
See more photos of this, and the Wikipedia article.

Details, quoting from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird:

No reconnaissance aircraft in history has operated globally in more hostile airspace or with such complete impunity than the SR-71, the world’s fastest jet-propelled aircraft. The Blackbird’s performance and operational achievements placed it at the pinnacle of aviation technology developments during the Cold War.

This Blackbird accrued about 2,800 hours of flight time during 24 years of active service with the U.S. Air Force. On its last flight, March 6, 1990, Lt. Col. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph Vida set a speed record by flying from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging 3,418 kilometers (2,124 miles) per hour. At the flight’s conclusion, they landed at Washington-Dulles International Airport and turned the airplane over to the Smithsonian.

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Lockheed Aircraft Corporation

Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson


Country of Origin:
United States of America

Overall: 18ft 5 15/16in. x 55ft 7in. x 107ft 5in., 169998.5lb. (5.638m x 16.942m x 32.741m, 77110.8kg)
Other: 18ft 5 15/16in. x 107ft 5in. x 55ft 7in. (5.638m x 32.741m x 16.942m)


Physical Description:
Twin-engine, two-seat, supersonic strategic reconnaissance aircraft; airframe constructed largley of titanium and its alloys; vertical tail fins are constructed of a composite (laminated plastic-type material) to reduce radar cross-section; Pratt and Whitney J58 (JT11D-20B) turbojet engines feature large inlet shock cones.

Long Description:
No reconnaissance aircraft in history has operated in more hostile airspace or with such complete impunity than the SR-71 Blackbird. It is the fastest aircraft propelled by air-breathing engines. The Blackbird’s performance and operational achievements placed it at the pinnacle of aviation technology developments during the Cold War. The airplane was conceived when tensions with communist Eastern Europe reached levels approaching a full-blown crisis in the mid-1950s. U.S. military commanders desperately needed accurate assessments of Soviet worldwide military deployments, particularly near the Iron Curtain. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s subsonic U-2 (see NASM collection) reconnaissance aircraft was an able platform but the U. S. Air Force recognized that this relatively slow aircraft was already vulnerable to Soviet interceptors. They also understood that the rapid development of surface-to-air missile systems could put U-2 pilots at grave risk. The danger proved reality when a U-2 was shot down by a surface to air missile over the Soviet Union in 1960.

Lockheed’s first proposal for a new high speed, high altitude, reconnaissance aircraft, to be capable of avoiding interceptors and missiles, centered on a design propelled by liquid hydrogen. This proved to be impracticable because of considerable fuel consumption. Lockheed then reconfigured the design for conventional fuels. This was feasible and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), already flying the Lockheed U-2, issued a production contract for an aircraft designated the A-12. Lockheed’s clandestine ‘Skunk Works’ division (headed by the gifted design engineer Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson) designed the A-12 to cruise at Mach 3.2 and fly well above 18,288 m (60,000 feet). To meet these challenging requirements, Lockheed engineers overcame many daunting technical challenges. Flying more than three times the speed of sound generates 316° C (600° F) temperatures on external aircraft surfaces, which are enough to melt conventional aluminum airframes. The design team chose to make the jet’s external skin of titanium alloy to which shielded the internal aluminum airframe. Two conventional, but very powerful, afterburning turbine engines propelled this remarkable aircraft. These power plants had to operate across a huge speed envelope in flight, from a takeoff speed of 334 kph (207 mph) to more than 3,540 kph (2,200 mph). To prevent supersonic shock waves from moving inside the engine intake causing flameouts, Johnson’s team had to design a complex air intake and bypass system for the engines.

Skunk Works engineers also optimized the A-12 cross-section design to exhibit a low radar profile. Lockheed hoped to achieve this by carefully shaping the airframe to reflect as little transmitted radar energy (radio waves) as possible, and by application of special paint designed to absorb, rather than reflect, those waves. This treatment became one of the first applications of stealth technology, but it never completely met the design goals.

Test pilot Lou Schalk flew the single-seat A-12 on April 24, 1962, after he became airborne accidentally during high-speed taxi trials. The airplane showed great promise but it needed considerable technical refinement before the CIA could fly the first operational sortie on May 31, 1967 – a surveillance flight over North Vietnam. A-12s, flown by CIA pilots, operated as part of the Air Force’s 1129th Special Activities Squadron under the "Oxcart" program. While Lockheed continued to refine the A-12, the U. S. Air Force ordered an interceptor version of the aircraft designated the YF-12A. The Skunk Works, however, proposed a "specific mission" version configured to conduct post-nuclear strike reconnaissance. This system evolved into the USAF’s familiar SR-71.

Lockheed built fifteen A-12s, including a special two-seat trainer version. Two A-12s were modified to carry a special reconnaissance drone, designated D-21. The modified A-12s were redesignated M-21s. These were designed to take off with the D-21 drone, powered by a Marquart ramjet engine mounted on a pylon between the rudders. The M-21 then hauled the drone aloft and launched it at speeds high enough to ignite the drone’s ramjet motor. Lockheed also built three YF-12As but this type never went into production. Two of the YF-12As crashed during testing. Only one survives and is on display at the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio. The aft section of one of the "written off" YF-12As which was later used along with an SR-71A static test airframe to manufacture the sole SR-71C trainer. One SR-71 was lent to NASA and designated YF-12C. Including the SR-71C and two SR-71B pilot trainers, Lockheed constructed thirty-two Blackbirds. The first SR-71 flew on December 22, 1964. Because of extreme operational costs, military strategists decided that the more capable USAF SR-71s should replace the CIA’s A-12s. These were retired in 1968 after only one year of operational missions, mostly over southeast Asia. The Air Force’s 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (part of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing) took over the missions, flying the SR-71 beginning in the spring of 1968.

After the Air Force began to operate the SR-71, it acquired the official name Blackbird– for the special black paint that covered the airplane. This paint was formulated to absorb radar signals, to radiate some of the tremendous airframe heat generated by air friction, and to camouflage the aircraft against the dark sky at high altitudes.

Experience gained from the A-12 program convinced the Air Force that flying the SR-71 safely required two crew members, a pilot and a Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO). The RSO operated with the wide array of monitoring and defensive systems installed on the airplane. This equipment included a sophisticated Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) system that could jam most acquisition and targeting radar. In addition to an array of advanced, high-resolution cameras, the aircraft could also carry equipment designed to record the strength, frequency, and wavelength of signals emitted by communications and sensor devices such as radar. The SR-71 was designed to fly deep into hostile territory, avoiding interception with its tremendous speed and high altitude. It could operate safely at a maximum speed of Mach 3.3 at an altitude more than sixteen miles, or 25,908 m (85,000 ft), above the earth. The crew had to wear pressure suits similar to those worn by astronauts. These suits were required to protect the crew in the event of sudden cabin pressure loss while at operating altitudes.

To climb and cruise at supersonic speeds, the Blackbird’s Pratt & Whitney J-58 engines were designed to operate continuously in afterburner. While this would appear to dictate high fuel flows, the Blackbird actually achieved its best "gas mileage," in terms of air nautical miles per pound of fuel burned, during the Mach 3+ cruise. A typical Blackbird reconnaissance flight might require several aerial refueling operations from an airborne tanker. Each time the SR-71 refueled, the crew had to descend to the tanker’s altitude, usually about 6,000 m to 9,000 m (20,000 to 30,000 ft), and slow the airplane to subsonic speeds. As velocity decreased, so did frictional heat. This cooling effect caused the aircraft’s skin panels to shrink considerably, and those covering the fuel tanks contracted so much that fuel leaked, forming a distinctive vapor trail as the tanker topped off the Blackbird. As soon as the tanks were filled, the jet’s crew disconnected from the tanker, relit the afterburners, and again climbed to high altitude.

Air Force pilots flew the SR-71 from Kadena AB, Japan, throughout its operational career but other bases hosted Blackbird operations, too. The 9th SRW occasionally deployed from Beale AFB, California, to other locations to carryout operational missions. Cuban missions were flown directly from Beale. The SR-71 did not begin to operate in Europe until 1974, and then only temporarily. In 1982, when the U.S. Air Force based two aircraft at Royal Air Force Base Mildenhall to fly monitoring mission in Eastern Europe.

When the SR-71 became operational, orbiting reconnaissance satellites had already replaced manned aircraft to gather intelligence from sites deep within Soviet territory. Satellites could not cover every geopolitical hotspot so the Blackbird remained a vital tool for global intelligence gathering. On many occasions, pilots and RSOs flying the SR-71 provided information that proved vital in formulating successful U. S. foreign policy. Blackbird crews provided important intelligence about the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and its aftermath, and pre- and post-strike imagery of the 1986 raid conducted by American air forces on Libya. In 1987, Kadena-based SR-71 crews flew a number of missions over the Persian Gulf, revealing Iranian Silkworm missile batteries that threatened commercial shipping and American escort vessels.

As the performance of space-based surveillance systems grew, along with the effectiveness of ground-based air defense networks, the Air Force started to lose enthusiasm for the expensive program and the 9th SRW ceased SR-71 operations in January 1990. Despite protests by military leaders, Congress revived the program in 1995. Continued wrangling over operating budgets, however, soon led to final termination. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration retained two SR-71As and the one SR-71B for high-speed research projects and flew these airplanes until 1999.

On March 6, 1990, the service career of one Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird ended with a record-setting flight. This special airplane bore Air Force serial number 64-17972. Lt. Col. Ed Yeilding and his RSO, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Vida, flew this aircraft from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging a speed of 3,418 kph (2,124 mph). At the conclusion of the flight, ‘972 landed at Dulles International Airport and taxied into the custody of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. At that time, Lt. Col. Vida had logged 1,392.7 hours of flight time in Blackbirds, more than that of any other crewman.

This particular SR-71 was also flown by Tom Alison, a former National Air and Space Museum’s Chief of Collections Management. Flying with Detachment 1 at Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Alison logged more than a dozen ‘972 operational sorties. The aircraft spent twenty-four years in active Air Force service and accrued a total of 2,801.1 hours of flight time.

Wingspan: 55’7"
Length: 107’5"
Height: 18’6"
Weight: 170,000 Lbs

Reference and Further Reading:

Crickmore, Paul F. Lockheed SR-71: The Secret Missions Exposed. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 1996.

Francillon, Rene J. Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1987.

Johnson, Clarence L. Kelly: More Than My Share of It All. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985.

Miller, Jay. Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. Leicester, U.K.: Midland Counties Publishing Ltd., 1995.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird curatorial file, Aeronautics Division, National Air and Space Museum.

DAD, 11-11-01

Marine Week Boston, 2010: Osprey getting ready to take off (montage)
rapid prototype machining
Image by Chris Devers
Pasted from Wikipedia:


The Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey is a multi-mission, military, tiltrotor aircraft with both a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft.

The V-22 originated from the U.S. Department of Defense Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental (JVX) aircraft program started in 1981. It was developed jointly by the Bell Helicopter, and Boeing Helicopters team, known as Bell Boeing, which produce the aircraft.[4] The V-22 first flew in 1989, and began years of flight testing and design alterations.

The United States Marine Corps began crew training for the Osprey in 2000, and fielded it in 2007. The Osprey’s other operator, the U.S. Air Force fielded their version of the tiltrotor in 2009. Since entering service with the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force, the Osprey has been deployed for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


1 Development
•• 1.1 Early development
•• 1.2 Flight testing and design changes
•• 1.3 Controversy
•• 1.4 Recent development
2 Design
3 Operational history
•• 3.1 US Marine Corps
•• 3.2 US Air Force
•• 3.3 Potential operators
4 Variants
5 Operators
6 Notable accidents
7 Specifications (MV-22B)
8 Notable appearances in media
9 See also
10 References
11 External links


Early development

The failure of the Iran hostage rescue mission in 1980 demonstrated to the United States military a need[5] for "a new type of aircraft, that could not only take off and land vertically but also could carry combat troops, and do so at speed."[6] The U.S. Department of Defense began the Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental (JVX) aircraft program in 1981, under U.S. Army leadership. Later the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps took the lead.[7][8] The JVX combined requirements from the Marine Corps, Air Force, Army and Navy.[9][10] A request for proposals (RFP) was issued in December 1982 for JVX preliminary design work. Interest in the program was expressed by Aérospatiale, Bell Helicopter, Boeing Vertol, Grumman, Lockheed, and Westland. The DoD pushed for contractors to form teams. Bell partnered with Boeing Vertol. The Bell Boeing team submitted a proposal for a enlarged version of the Bell XV-15 prototype on 17 February 1983. This was the only proposal received and a preliminary design contract was awarded on 26 April 1983.[11][12]

The JVX aircraft was designated V-22 Osprey on 15 January 1985; by March that same year the first six prototypes were being produced, and Boeing Vertol was expanded to deal with the project workload.[13][14] Work has been split evenly between Bell and Boeing. Bell Helicopter manufactures and integrates the wing, nacelles, rotors, drive system, tail surfaces, and aft ramp, as well as integrates the Rolls-Royce engines and performs final assembly. Boeing Helicopters manufactures and integrates the fuselage, cockpit, avionics, and flight controls.[4][15] The USMC variant of the Osprey received the MV-22 designation and the Air Force variant received CV-22; reversed from normal procedure to prevent Marine Ospreys from having a conflicting designation with aircraft carriers (CV).[16] Full-scale development of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft began in 1986.[2] On 3 May 1986 the Bell-Boeing partnership was awarded a .714 billion contract for V-22 aircraft by the Navy, thus at this point the project had acquisition plans with all four arms of the U.S. military.[17]

The first V-22 was rolled out with significant media attention in May 1988.[18][19] However the project suffered several political blows. Firstly in the same year, the Army left the program, citing a need to focus its budget on more immediate aviation programs.[20] The project also faced considerable dialogue in the Senate, surviving two votes that both could have resulted in cancellation.[21][22] Despite the Senate’s decision, the Department of Defense instructed the Navy not to spend more money on the Osprey.[23] At the same time, the Bush administration sought the cancellation of the project.[23]

Flight testing and design changes

The first of six MV-22 prototypes first flew on 19 March 1989 in the helicopter mode,[24] and on 14 September 1989 as a fixed-wing plane.[25] The third and fourth prototypes successfully completed the Osprey’s first Sea Trials on the USS Wasp in December 1990.[26] However, the fourth and fifth prototypes crashed in 1991-92.[27] Flight tests were resumed in August 1993 after changes were incorporated in the prototypes.[2] From October 1992 until April 1993, Bell and Boeing redesigned the V-22 to reduce empty weight, simplify manufacture and reduce production costs. This redesigned version became the B-model.[28]

Flight testing of four full-scale development V-22s began in early 1997 when the first pre-production V-22 was delivered to the Naval Air Warfare Test Center, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. The first EMD flight took place on 5 February 1997. The first of four low rate initial production aircraft, ordered on 28 April 1997, was delivered on 27 May 1999. Osprey number 10 completed the program’s second Sea Trials, this time from the USS Saipan in January 1999.[2] During external load testing in April 1999, Boeing used a V-22 to lift and transport the M777 howitzer.[29] In 2000, Boeing announced that the V-22 would be fitted with a nose-mounted GAU-19 Gatling gun,[30] but the GAU-19 gun was later canceled.[31]

In 2000, there were two further fatal crashes, killing a total of 19 Marines, and the production was again halted while the cause of these crashes was investigated and various parts were redesigned.[32] The V-22 completed its final operational evaluation in June 2005. The evaluation was deemed successful; events included long range deployments, high altitude, desert and shipboard operations. The problems identified in various accidents had been addressed.[33]


The V-22’s development process has been long and controversial, partly due to its large cost increases.[34] When the development budget, first planned for .5 billion in 1986, increased to a projected billion in 1988, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney tried to zero out its funding. He was eventually overruled by Congress.[32] As of 2008, billion have been spent on the Osprey program and another .2 billion will be required to complete planned production numbers by the end of the program.[2]

The V-22 squadron’s former commander at Marine Corps Air Station New River, Lt. Colonel Odin Lieberman, was relieved of duty in 2001 after allegations that he instructed his unit that they needed to falsify maintenance records to make the plane appear more reliable.[2][35] Three officers were later implicated in the falsification scandal.[34]

The aircraft is incapable of autorotation, and is therefore unable to land safely in helicopter mode if both engines fail. A director of the Pentagon’s testing office in 2005 said that if the Osprey loses power while flying like a helicopter below 1,600 feet (490 m), emergency landings "are not likely to be survivable". But Captain Justin (Moon) McKinney, a V-22 pilot, says that this will not be a problem, "We can turn it into a plane and glide it down, just like a C-130".[31] A complete loss of power would require the failure of both engines, as a drive shaft connects the nacelles through the wing; one engine can power both proprotors.[36] While vortex ring state (VRS) contributed to a deadly V-22 accident, the aircraft is less susceptible to the condition than conventional helicopters and recovers more quickly.[5] The Marines now train new pilots in the recognition of and recovery from VRS and have instituted operational envelope limits and instrumentation to help pilots avoid VRS conditions.[32][37]

It was planned in 2000 to equip all V-22s with a nose-mounted Gatling gun, to provide "the V-22 with a strong defensive firepower capability to greatly increase the aircraft’s survivability in hostile actions."[30] The nose gun project was canceled however, leading to criticism by retired Marine Corps Commandant General James L. Jones, who is not satisfied with the current V-22 armament.[31] A belly-mounted turret was later installed on some of the first V-22s sent to the War in Afghanistan in 2009.[38]

With the first combat deployment of the MV-22 in October 2007, Time Magazine ran an article condemning the aircraft as unsafe, overpriced, and completely inadequate.[31] The Marine Corps, however, responded with the assertion that much of the article’s data were dated, obsolete, inaccurate, and reflected expectations that ran too high for any new field of aircraft.[39]

Recent development

On 28 September 2005, the Pentagon formally approved full-rate production for the V-22.[40] The plan is to boost production from 11 a year to between 24 and 48 a year by 2012. Of the 458 total planned, 360 are for the Marine Corps, 48 for the Navy, and 50 for the Air Force at an average cost of 0 million per aircraft, including development costs.[2] The V-22 had an incremental flyaway cost of million per aircraft in 2007,[3] but the Navy hopes to shave about million off that cost after a five-year production contract starts in 2008.[41]

The Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office in Amarillo, Texas will design a new integrated avionics processor to resolve electronics obsolescence issues and add new network capabilities.[42]


The Osprey is the world’s first production tiltrotor aircraft, with one three-bladed proprotor, turboprop engine, and transmission nacelle mounted on each wingtip. It is classified as a powered lift aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration.[43] For takeoff and landing, it typically operates as a helicopter with the nacelles vertical (rotors horizontal). Once airborne, the nacelles rotate forward 90° in as little as 12 seconds for horizontal flight, converting the V-22 to a more fuel-efficient, higher-speed turboprop airplane. STOL rolling-takeoff and landing capability is achieved by having the nacelles tilted forward up to 45°. For compact storage and transport, the V-22’s wing rotates to align, front-to-back, with the fuselage. The proprotors can also fold in a sequence taking 90 seconds.[44]

Most Osprey missions will use fixed wing flight 75 percent or more of the time, reducing wear and tear on the aircraft and reducing operational costs.[45] This fixed wing flight is higher than typical helicopter missions allowing longer range line-of-sight communications and so improved command and control.[2] Boeing has stated the V-22 design loses 10% of its vertical lift over a Tiltwing design when operating in helicopter mode because of airflow resistance due to the wings, but that the Tiltrotor design has better short takeoff and landing performance.[46]

The V-22 is equipped with a glass cockpit, which incorporates four Multi-function displays (MFDs) and one shared Central Display Unit (CDU), allowing the pilots to display a variety of images including: digimaps centered or decentered on current position, FLIR imagery, primary flight instruments, navigation (TACAN, VOR, ILS, GPS, INS), and system status. The flight director panel of the Cockpit Management System (CMS) allows for fully-coupled (aka: autopilot) functions which will take the aircraft from forward flight into a 50-foot hover with no pilot interaction other than programming the system.[47] The glass cockpit of the canceled CH-46X was derived from the V-22.[48]

The V-22 is a fly-by-wire aircraft with triple-redundant flight control systems.[49] With the nacelles pointing straight up in conversion mode at 90° the flight computers command the aircraft to fly like a helicopter, with cyclic forces being applied to a conventional swashplate at the rotor hub. With the nacelles in airplane mode (0°) the flaperons, rudder, and elevator fly the aircraft like an airplane. This is a gradual transition and occurs over the rotation range of the nacelles. The lower the nacelles, the greater effect of the airplane-mode control surfaces.[50] The nacelles can rotate past vertical to 97.5° for rearward flight.[51][52]

The Osprey can be armed with one M240 7.62x51mm NATO (.308 in caliber) or M2 .50 in caliber (12.7 mm) machine gun on the loading ramp, that can be fired rearward when the ramp is lowered. A GAU-19 three-barrel .50 in gatling gun mounted below the V-22’s nose has also been studied for future upgrade.[31][53] BAE Systems developed a remotely operated turreted weapons system for the V-22,[54] which was installed on half of the first V-22s deployed to Afghanistan in 2009.[38] The 7.62 mm belly gun turret is remotely operated by a gunner inside the aircraft, who acquires targets with a separate pod using color television and forward looking infrared imagery.

U.S. Naval Air Systems Command is working on upgrades to increase the maximum speed from 250 knots (460 km/h; 290 mph) to 270 knots (500 km/h; 310 mph), increase helicopter mode altitude limit from 10,000 feet (3,000 m) to 12,000 feet (3,700 m) or 14,000 feet (4,300 m), and increase lift performance.[55]

Operational history

US Marine Corps

Marine Corps crew training on the Osprey has been conducted by VMMT-204 since March 2000. On 3 June 2005, the Marine Corps helicopter squadron Marine Medium Helicopter 263 (HMM-263), stood down to begin the process of transitioning to the MV-22 Osprey.[56] On 8 December 2005, Lieutenant General Amos, commander of the II MEF, accepted the delivery of the first fleet of MV-22s, delivered to HMM-263. The unit reactivated on 3 March 2006 as the first MV-22 squadron and was redesignated VMM-263. On 31 August 2006, VMM-162 (the former HMM-162) followed suit. On 23 March 2007, HMM-266 became Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (VMM-266) at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.[57]

The Osprey has been replacing existing CH-46 Sea Knight squadrons.[58] The MV-22 reached initial operational capability (IOC) with the U.S. Marine Corps on 13 June 2007.[1] On 10 July 2007 an MV-22 Osprey landed aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious in the Atlantic Ocean. This marked the first time a V-22 had landed on any non-U.S. vessel.[59]

On 13 April 2007, the U.S. Marine Corps announced that it would be sending ten V-22 aircraft to Iraq, the Osprey’s first combat deployment. Marine Corps Commandant, General James Conway, indicated that over 150 Marines would accompany the Osprey set for September deployment to Al-Asad Airfield.[60][61] On 17 September 2007, ten MV-22Bs of VMM-263 left for Iraq aboard the USS Wasp. The decision to use a ship rather than use the Osprey’s self-deployment capability was made because of concerns over icing during the North Atlantic portion of the trip, lack of available KC-130s for mid-air refueling, and the availability of the USS Wasp.[62]

The Osprey has provided support in Iraq, racking up some 2,000 flight hours over three months with a mission capable availability rate of 68.1% as of late-January 2008.[63] They are primarily used in Iraq’s western Anbar province for routine cargo and troop movements, and also for riskier "aero-scout" missions. General David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, used one to fly around Iraq on Christmas Day 2007 to visit troops.[64] Then-presidential candidate Barack Obama also flew in Ospreys during his high profile 2008 tour of Iraq.[65]

The only major problem has been obtaining the necessary spare parts to maintain the aircraft.[66] The V-22 had flown 3,000 sorties totaling 5,200 hours in Iraq as of July 2008.[67] USMC leadership expect to deploy MV-22s to Afghanistan in 2009.[66][68] General George J. Trautman, III praised the increased range of the V-22 over the legacy helicopters in Iraq and said that "it turned his battle space from the size of Texas into the size of Rhode Island."[69]

Naval Air Systems Command has devised a temporary fix for sailors to place portable heat shields under Osprey engines to prevent damage to the decks of some of the Navy’s smaller amphibious ships, but they determined that a long term solution to the problem would require these decks be redesigned with heat resistant deck coatings, passive thermal barriers and changes in ship structure in order to operate V-22s and F-35Bs.[70]

A Government Accountability Office study reported that by January 2009 the Marines had 12 MV-22s operating in Iraq and they managed to successfully complete all assigned missions. The same report found that the V-22 deployments had mission capable rates averaging 57% to 68% and an overall full mission capable rate of only 6%. It also stated that the aircraft had shown weakness in situational awareness, maintenance, shipboard operations and the ability to transport troops and external cargo.[71] That study also concluded that the "deployments confirmed that the V-22’s enhanced speed and range enable personnel and internal cargo to be transported faster and farther than is possible with the legacy helicopters it is replacing".[71]

The MV-22 saw its first offensive combat mission, Operation Cobra’s Anger on 4 December 2009. Ospreys assisted in inserting 1,000 Marines and 150 Afghan troops into the Now Zad Valley of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan to disrupt communication and supply lines of the Taliban.[38] In January 2010 the MV-22 Osprey is being sent to Haiti as part of Operation Unified Response relief efforts after the earthquake there. This will be the first use the Marine V-22 in a humanitarian mission.[72]

US Air Force

The Air Force’s first operational CV-22 Osprey was delivered to the 58th Special Operations Wing (58th SOW) at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico on 20 March 2006. This and subsequent aircraft will become part of the 58th SOW’s fleet of aircraft used for training pilots and crew members for special operations use.[73] On 16 November 2006, the Air Force officially accepted the CV-22 in a ceremony conducted at Hurlburt Field, Florida.[74]

The US Air Force’s first operational deployment of the Osprey sent four CV-22s to Mali in November 2008 in support of Exercise Flintlock. The CV-22s flew nonstop from Hurlburt Field, Florida with in-flight refueling.[5] AFSOC declared that the 8th Special Operations Squadron reached Initial Operational Capability on 16 March 2009, with six of its planned nine CV-22s operational.[75]

In June 2009, CV-22s of the 8th Special Operations Squadron delivered 43,000 pounds (20,000 kg) of humanitarian supplies to remote villages in Honduras that were not accessible by conventional vehicles.[76] In November 2009, the 8th SO Squadron and its six CV-22s returned from a three-month deployment in Iraq.[77]

The first possible combat loss of an Osprey occurred on 9 April, 2010, as a CV-22 went down near Qalat, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, killing four.[78][79]

Potential operators

In 1999 the V-22 was studied for use in the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy,[80] it has been raised several times as a candidate for the role of Maritime Airborne Surveillance and Control (MASC).[81]

Israel had shown interest in the purchase of MV-22s, but no order was placed.[82][83] Flightglobal reported in late 2009 that Israel has decided to wait for the CH-53K instead.[84]

The V-22 Osprey is a candidate for the Norwegian All Weather Search and Rescue Helicopter (NAWSARH) that is planned to replace the Westland Sea King Mk.43B of the Royal Norwegian Air Force in 2015.[85] The other candidates for the NAWSARH contract of 10-12 helicopters are AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin, Eurocopter EC225, NHIndustries NH90 and Sikorsky S-92.[86]

Bell Boeing has made an unsolicited offer of the V-22 for US Army medical evacuation needs.[87] However the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency issued a report that said that a common helicopter design would be needed for both combat recovery and medical evacuation and that the V-22 would not be suitable for recovery missions because of the difficulty of hoist operations and lack of self-defense capabilities.[88]

The US Navy remains a potential user of the V-22, but its role and mission with the Navy remains unclear. The latest proposal is to replace the C-2 Greyhound with the V-22 in the fleet logistics role. The V-22 would have the advantage of being able to land on and support non-carriers with rapid delivery of supplies and people between the ships of a taskforce or to ships on patrol beyond helicopter range.[89] Loren B. Thompson of the Lexington Institute has suggested V-22s for use in combat search and rescue and Marine One VIP transport, which also need replacement aircraft.[90]


•• Pre-production full-scale development aircraft used for flight testing. These are unofficially considered A-variants after 1993 redesign.[91]

•• The U.S. Navy considered an HV-22 to provide combat search and rescue, delivery and retrieval of special warfare teams along with fleet logistic support transport. However, it chose the MH-60S for this role in 1992.[92]

•• The proposed anti-submarine warfare Navy variant. The Navy studied the SV-22 in the 1980s to replace S-3 and SH-2 aircraft.[93]

•• Basic U.S. Marine Corps transport; original requirement for 552 (now 360). The Marine Corps is the lead service in the development of the V-22 Osprey. The Marine Corps variant, the MV-22B, is an assault transport for troops, equipment and supplies, capable of operating from ships or from expeditionary airfields ashore. It is replacing the Marine Corps’ CH-46E[57] and CH-53D.[94]

•• Air Force variant for the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). It will conduct long-range, special operations missions, and is equipped with extra fuel tanks and terrain-following radar.[95][96]


 United States

United States Air Force

•• 8th Special Operations Squadron (8 SOS) at Hurlburt Field, Florida
•• 71st Special Operations Squadron (71 SOS) at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico
•• 20th Special Operations Squadron (20 SOS) at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico

United States Marine Corps

•• VMM-161
•• VMM-162
•• VMM-261
•• VMM-263
•• VMM-264
•• VMM-266
•• VMM-365
•• VMMT-204 – Training squadron
•• VMX-22 – Marine Tiltrotor Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron

Notable accidents

Main article: Accidents and incidents involving the V-22 Osprey

From 1991 to 2000 there were four significant crashes, and a total of 30 fatalities, during testing.[32] Since becoming operational in 2007, the V-22 has had one possible combat loss due to an unknown cause, no losses due to accidents, and seven other notable, but minor, incidents.

• On 11 June 1991, a mis-wired flight control system led to two minor injuries when the left nacelle struck the ground while the aircraft was hovering 15 feet (4.6 m) in the air, causing it to bounce and catch fire.[97]

• On 20 July 1992, a leaking gearbox led to a fire in the right nacelle, causing the aircraft to drop into the Potomac River in front of an audience of Congressmen and other government officials at Quantico, killing all seven on board and grounding the aircraft for 11 months.[98]

• On 8 April 2000, a V-22 loaded with Marines to simulate a rescue, attempted to land at Marana Northwest Regional Airport in Arizona, stalled when its right rotor entered vortex ring state, rolled over, crashed, and exploded, killing all 19 on board.[37]

• On 11 December 2000, after a catastrophic hydraulic leak and subsequent software instrument failure, a V-22 fell 1,600 feet (490 m) into a forest in Jacksonville, North Carolina, killing all four aboard. This caused the Marine Corps to ground their fleet of eight V-22s, the second grounding that year.[99][100]

Specifications (MV-22B)

Data from Boeing Integrated Defense Systems,[101] Naval Air Systems Command,[102] US Air Force CV-22 fact sheet,[95] Norton,[103] and Bell[104]

General characteristics

Crew: Four (pilot, copilot and two flight engineers)
Capacity: 24 troops (seated), 32 troops (floor loaded) or up to 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) of cargo (dual hook)
Length: 57 ft 4 in (17.5 m)
Rotor diameter: 38 ft 0 in (11.6 m)
Wingspan: 45 ft 10 in (14 m)
Width with rotors: 84 ft 7 in (25.8 m)
Height: 22 ft 1 in/6.73 m; overall with nacelles vertical (17 ft 11 in/5.5 m; at top of tailfins)
Disc area: 2,268 ft² (212 m²)
Wing area: 301.4 ft² (28 m²)
Empty weight: 33,140 lb (15,032 kg)
Loaded weight: 47,500 lb (21,500 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 60,500 lb (27,400 kg)
Powerplant:Rolls-Royce Allison T406/AE 1107C-Liberty turboshafts, 6,150 hp (4,590 kW) each


Maximum speed: 250 knots (460 km/h, 290 mph) at sea level / 305 kn (565 km/h; 351 mph) at 15,000 ft (4,600 m)[105]
Cruise speed: 241 knots (277 mph, 446 km/h) at sea level
Range: 879 nmi (1,011 mi, 1,627 km)
Combat radius: 370 nmi (426 mi, 685 km)
Ferry range: 1,940 nmi (with auxiliary internal fuel tanks)
Service ceiling: 26,000 ft (7,925 m)
Rate of climb: 2,320 ft/min (11.8 m/s)
Disc loading: 20.9 lb/ft² at 47,500 lb GW (102.23 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.259 hp/lb (427 W/kg)


• 1× M240 machine gun on ramp, optional

Notable appearances in media

Main article: Aircraft in fiction#V-22 Osprey

See also

Elizabeth A. Okoreeh-Baah, USMC – first female to pilot a V-22 Osprey

Related development

Bell XV-15[106]
Bell/Agusta BA609
Bell Boeing Quad TiltRotor

Comparable aircraft

Canadair CL-84
LTV XC-142

Related lists

List of military aircraft of the United States
List of VTOL aircraft



• Markman, Steve and Bill Holder. "Bell/Boeing V-22 Osprey Tilt-Engine VTOL Transport (U.S.A.)". Straight Up: A History of Vertical Flight. Schiffer Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-7643-1204-9.
• Norton, Bill. Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, Tiltrotor Tactical Transport. Midland Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-85780-165-2.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: V-22 Osprey

Official Boeing V-22 site
Official Bell V-22 site
V-22 Osprey web, and
CV-22 fact sheet on USAF site
Onward and Upward
"Flight of the Osprey", US Navy video of V-22 operations