After revolutionizing the way U.S. Marines and Air Force Special Operations perform their mission-sets, the V-22 Osprey program now has its sights set on redefining what it means to be a multi-mission and multirole aircraft in the 21st Century. The Bell Boeing team announced in early September successful initial testing of a V-22 in the role of aerial tanker, as an Osprey equipped with a roll-on, roll-off prototype aerial refueling system demonstrated flight and maneuvering coordinated with an F/A-18C and an F/A-18/D Hornet trailing the Osprey.
The demonstration is a valuable step in moving the V-22 into the aerial refueling role, and highlighted safe deployment, retraction, and stable positioning of the refueling drogue trailing the V-22, as well as a Hornet fighter aircraft flying in positions adjacent to the deployed drogue. A second series of flights tested the hose and drogue system in the low-speed role to simulate speeds used in refueling other capable rotorcraft. Future testing of the system will include aircraft in a fuel-receiving position directly behind the V-22, connection with the refueling drogue and ultimately in-flight refueling.
The V-22 is key contender for the coming Navy Carrier Onboard Delivery competition, and the aerial refueling demonstration marks a major milestone in developing capabilities that bolster the Osprey’s position in that contest. With the tiltrotor’s speed, range and runway independence, future carrier groups could task a V-22 to deliver supplies to the afloat task force or ashore, roll on the refueling kit and refuel everything from fighter aircraft to vehicles on the ground, then task that aircraft for a MEDEVAC or special operations insertion – all within a single day.