New DOD ban on V-22 Osprey flights: no more than half an hour

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US operators of the V-22 Osprey have been hit with a new flight restriction. According to Military.com, the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy are now required to ensure that their V-22 Ospreys stay within a half-hour flight of a suitable landing site in case of emergencies. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

This restriction comes just months after the Pentagon lifted a previous ban on V-22 Osprey flights in March. That ban was implemented following a tragic accident that resulted in the deaths of all eight crew members aboard the helicopter. The incident occurred on November 29, 2022, off the coast of Japan.

Commander Beth Teach, a spokeswoman for the Naval Air Forces, confirmed to Military.com that the restriction was issued by the V-22 Joint Program Office, which is part of the Air Force Systems Command. This new rule is mandated for all affected services to follow. 

Photo credit: YouTube

The specifics of what would make an ideal landing zone for the tilt-rotor aircraft, designed for rapid helicopter-like landings in tough conditions, remain unclear.

In February this year, shortly before the Pentagon lifted the ban, the Air Force Special Operations Command released a statement saying, “While the material damage is known, the cause is still under investigation. Engineering tests and analyses are ongoing to determine the root cause of the damage, which is crucial for the investigation.” 

During this same period, the Osprey fleet faced intense scrutiny following several fatal accidents and a persistent mechanical issue, known as clutch slipping, originating in the V-22 gearbox. This problem has plagued the aircraft for over a decade.

Photo credit: Air Vectors

At the time, Pentagon insiders, who chose to remain anonymous, shared with the media that the investigation was making headway and was focusing on the plane’s intricate network of clutches and gearboxes as potential issues. The Associated Press noted that the Pentagon might have pinpointed the mechanical failure behind the crash in Japan, while NBC News highlighted that the crash investigation was zeroing in on the plane’s propeller gearbox. 

The V-22 Osprey is a tiltrotor military aircraft, a collaborative creation of Bell Helicopter and Boeing. This innovative machine merges the vertical takeoff and landing efficiency of a helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruising ability of a turboprop plane. Thanks to this unique design, the V-22 Osprey can handle a variety of missions, such as troop transport, medical evacuation, and special operations.

Diving into its technical specs, the V-22 Osprey can reach a maximum speed of 275 knots [316 mph, 509/h km] in airplane mode and has a service ceiling of 25,000 feet [7,620 meters]. With its internal fuel supply, it boasts a range of about 879 nautical miles [1,013 miles, 1,627 km], which can be extended further with aerial refueling. Powering this versatile aircraft are two Rolls-Royce AE 1107C Liberty turboshaft engines. 

Photo by Cpl. Becky L. Calhoun

The avionics suite of the V-22 Osprey includes advanced navigation and communication systems. It is equipped with a fully integrated glass cockpit featuring multi-function displays, a digital map, and a fly-by-wire flight control system. The avionics also include GPS, INS [Inertial Navigation System], and TACAN [Tactical Air Navigation] systems, ensuring precise navigation and situational awareness.

The V-22 Osprey is outfitted with various types of equipment to enhance its operational capabilities. This includes a rescue hoist for search and rescue missions, a cargo winch for loading and unloading supplies, and a refueling probe for aerial refueling. Additionally, it can be equipped with external fuel tanks to extend its operational range.

The aircraft’s components are designed to support its unique tiltrotor configuration. Key  components  include the tiltrotor nacelles, which house the engines and can rotate to transition between vertical and horizontal flight. The proprotors are large, three-bladed rotors that provide lift and thrust. The airframe is constructed from advanced composite materials to reduce weight and enhance durability.

Photo credit: PACOM

In terms of armament, the V-22 Osprey can be equipped with a variety of weapons for self-defense and offensive operations. It can mount a 7.62mm M240 machine gun or a .50 caliber GAU-21 machine gun on the rear ramp. Additionally, it has provisions for mounting a forward-firing M134 Minigun or a GAU-17/A machine gun on the fuselage. 

The operational range of the V-22 Osprey is one of its standout features. With a range of approximately 879 nautical miles [1,013 miles, 1,627 km] on internal fuel, it can conduct long-range missions without the need for frequent refueling. This range can be significantly extended through aerial refueling, allowing the Osprey to support a wide variety of missions over vast distances. 

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