The Navy is well on its way to meeting its goal of deploying the CMV-22B Osprey alongside the F-35C Lightning II, which will depend on the new carrier onboard delivery (COD) platform for at-sea deliveries of its massive engine.
A modified version of the Marine Corps’ MV-22B Osprey, the CMV-22B will be tailored to the COD mission of delivering cargo and passengers to aircraft carriers and, potentially, other ships at sea. The current COD platform, the C-2A Greyhound, is incapable of carrying the F-35C’s engine power module inside its fuselage, so the CMV-22B will be needed for logistical support when the fifth-generation strike fighter deploys for the first time in 2021.
“CMV-22 will [reach initial operational capability] in the Navy in 2021, and that is mapped to our first F-35 deployment for those engine considerations,” Rear Adm. Scott Conn, director of Air Warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, testified Sept. 28 before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.
The CMV-22B will come with extended range via increased fuel capacity, a beyond-visual-range high-frequency radio for contacting ships beyond the horizon, a public address system for communicating with passengers, and a better lighting system for loading cargo at night. Basing the new COD platform on an existing aircraft allows for an abbreviated development and test schedule.
“The only thing that we’re testing are the things different on the CMV-22 as compared to the MV-22,” Conn said. “So that’s going to be a very compressed test.”
Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 pilots took a major step toward integrating the Osprey into the carrier air wing in August when they successfully performed heavy gross weight rolling landings and takeoffs aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). Landing and taking off with forward airspeed allows the Osprey to haul more weight than if it were to land and take-off vertically, when only the rotors are providing lift.
In addition, Bush’s onboard testing included integrating the MV-22 into flight deck operations.
“This underway is a historic event for the Navy,” said Lt. Gavin Kurey, the first Navy pilot to land an MV-22 on an aircraft carrier. “I never thought I’d be part of something like this as a COD guy. There’s a lot of reluctance initially to join new platforms that are so different, but to be part of the first wave that can help to make that transition happen is an amazing experience.”
For Kurey, it was his second milestone aboard Bush—his first arrested landing piloting a C-2A came on the flattop in 2012.
The Osprey previously demonstrated its ability to perform the COD mission in 2016 during a three-week Fleet Battle Experiment aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), during which 34,590 pounds of cargo and 563 passengers were transported to and from the ship via MV-22Bs. The experiment began the development of the concept of operations for integrating the CMV-22B into the carrier air wing.
The Navy awarded the CMV-22B development contract to V-22 manufacturer Bell Boeing in 2016, but its transition from the C-2A began this year with facility renovations and personnel actions at the existing East and West Coat Fleet Logistics Centers—Naval Station (NS) Norfolk, Virginia, and Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island, California.
Part of a five-year production contract awarded in June that included MV-22Bs and Air Force-variant CV-22Bs, the first CMV-22B is scheduled to be delivered in the first quarter of fiscal 2020 to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, for flight testing. Delivery to the fleet will follow later that year, said Col. Matthew Kelly, program manager for the V-22 joint program office.
“In a recent visit I took to the Boeing facility in Philadelphia, it was great to see the CMV-22 hardware on the production line as envisioned by the joint program office since its development in 2016,” Kelly said. “The V-22 joint program office is ensuring scheduled development and milestones stay on track, and we’re working with the Navy to ensure a smooth transition from the C-2 to the CMV-22B.”
The Navy plans to replace its remaining C-2As with CMV-22Bs beginning in 2020, with the full fleet expected to be delivered by 2025. A key part of that process is transitioning career Greyhound pilots like Kurey to the Osprey.
“I started off flying Greyhound carrier onboard delivery aircraft and I love the platform,” said Lt. Cmdr. Steven Tschanz, another HX-21 test pilot. “With that said, nothing lasts forever, and the Navy came up with a solution to move us into the future with the CMV-22B Osprey.
“The COD community is growing. I think the next few years are going to be a dynamic and exciting time, not just for pilots, but also the U.S. Navy.”
First CMV-22B Squadron Stands Up
The Navy took another early step in its COD transition with the Oct. 1 establishment of the first CMV-22B squadron at NAS North Island.
Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30 is one of two planned CMV-22B squadrons that will replace the two existing COD squadrons, one each on the East and West Coast. VRM-30 will replace Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 at NAS North Island, while the future VRM-40 will replace VRC-40 at NS Norfolk.
“This action starts the carrier onboard delivery aircraft transition from C-2A Greyhound to CMV-22B Osprey as Naval Aviation sun-downs the Greyhound fleet due to C-2A end of service life,” an Aug. 6 notice from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson states.
In addition to creating VRM-30, the Navy also stood up a Naval Aviation Training Support Group (NATSG) at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, which already hosts Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron (VMMT) 204, the Corps’ V-22 fleet replacement squadron.
The NATSG will serve “as the aviation group staff with responsibility to liaise with the Marine Corps, and oversee Navy pilot, aircrew and aircraft maintenance personnel through the training pipeline of VMTT-204,” the notice states.
The NATSG will also support the future standup of a new VRM-type wing and CMV-22B fleet replacement squadron, VRM-50, both at NAS North Island.
C-2 Sunset Moves Up to Fiscal 2024
The Navy has also been able to accelerate the Greyhound’s sundown by three years to fiscal 2024 thanks to funding from Congress for additional CMV-22B purchases.
“The initial plan was to sundown the C-2 in 2027,” Conn said during his Sept. 28 testimony. “With the help of Congress, with additional [CMV-22Bs], we’ve been able to push that left to fiscal year ’24.”
Given the facilities that still need to be constructed, training required for Sailors to be able to operate and maintain the aircraft, and flight hours that aircrew need to accrue, the CMV-22B’s IOC is already scheduled for as early as possible.
“There is no means by which I can accelerate that any further,” Conn said. “We’re going as fast as we can go. Any additional aircraft at this point would relieve or provide a shock absorber during the transition, as we go from transition to deployment and follow-on detachments until we’re completely divested of our C-2.”
Jeff Newman is a staff writer for Naval Aviation News. Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Roland John is a member of USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs.