Enhanced Firepower Capability Of Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey Aircraft
Will modifying V-22 Osprey be more useful for the US troops?
Since 2007, the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is considered one of the safest aircraft used and operated by the US Marine Corps. This aircraft has been deployed in the US for combat missions and globally with only a machine gun pointed out the back of the aircraft as its major offensive weapon. The V-22 aircraft has nevertheless achieved unparalleled successful missions in deployments to the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean, and Afghanistan.
V-22 Osprey’s Mission Capabilities
Despite its wide range of mission capability, this super versatile aircraft from Bell Boeing has always been considered a lightly-armed aircraft paling in comparison with other military helicopters primarily because of a lone heavy weapon mounted to its rear door. The V-22 Osprey has been heavily relied upon in:
- Casualty evacuation
- Theater security cooperation
- VIP transport
- Tactical recovery of personnel and aircraft
- Disaster relief and humanitarian assistance
Machine Gun’s Limited Firepower
Osprey’s limited firepower from the machine gun has likewise restricted the aircraft from carrying out missions that require heavy firepower. The V-22 Osprey usually flies alongside helicopter gunships when in hostile territory, for protection. While an optional small, remote controlled gun can be installed on the aircraft’s underside, which can be fired by a Marine in the aircraft’s cargo bay from a control station, it is rarely used because of its weight. The amount of cargo which the aircraft can carry will be reduced if the belly-mounted optional weapon is used.
Changing Into Forward-Firing Rockets
But all this is about to change soon. Bell Boeing took a major step to change the aircraft’s limited firepower capability. In an announcement released on December 8, Bell Boeing said the V-22 Osprey has successfully demonstrated firing forward-facing rockets from a pod mounted to the side of the aircraft, with surface evenness provided by 18-8 stainless steel shims.
The demonstration on the forward-firing rockets was carried out at the US Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona in November. The exercise showed that a variety of forward-facing ammunitions can be mounted to the V-22 Osprey and this would allow the aircraft to hit targets with a high degree of reliability, according to Bell Boeing’s vice president and V-22 program manager, Vince Tobin.
V-22 Osprey Can Take Expanded Mission Types
The lighter but more lethal forward-firing rockets could expand the types of missions the aircraft can be utilized for and provide a more practical solution for the aircraft’s firepower capability. Tobin explained that the integration of a forward-firing weapon will likewise increase its mission set. Once installed, these weapons will provide the aircraft with the added firepower and subsequently reduce dependence on attack helicopter FARPs (forward arming and refueling points) which are sometimes required to supply short-range attack rotorcraft in support of V-22 operations. This will result in the launching of V-22s more frequently and on shorter notice.
Speed And Agility For Protection
The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft takes off and lands vertically similar to a helicopter. The difference though from ordinary and regular choppers is that the V-22 can pivot its rotors and engines forward to fly long distances at a higher speed much like a fixed-wing airplane. With only the machine gun mounted on the aircraft’s rear door, the V-22 Osprey had to rely on its speed and agility to protect itself from ground fire. Installing the forward-firing rockets will change that.
Guided And Non-Guided Rockets
The November testing of forward-firing rockets had the V-22 Osprey firing short-range guided and unguided rockets which included the Griffin B missile from Raytheon and the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System – the laser-guided missile of BAE. Fired from the left side of the aircraft just outside the cockpit window, the forward-facing rockets, either the pilot or co-pilot could do it. Outside the cockpit windows, the pilot could spot and hit on targets.
The US Marine Corps has 242 MV-22 while the US Air Force Special Operations Command has 44 CV-22s to date. The US Marine Corps use the MV-22 as cargo aircraft and troop carrier, as well as in search and rescue missions while the US Air Force flies the CV-22 on special operations missions.
Will the US Marine Corps or the US Air Force fund a program to equip these V-22 Osprey with the forward-firing rockets?