CV-22: More Than Meets The Eye

  • Published
  • By Katherine C. Gandara
  • Headquarters Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Chief of Public Affairs
A Transformer is an intelligent machine that is able to "transform" or reconfigure itself into another form and the popular tagline for this enduring action toy line is that it is "more than meets the eye."

That is an apt description of the Air Force's multi-purpose, long-range CV-22 Osprey aircraft. Almost futuristic in its design, the CV-22 looks like a helicopter on the ground with two sets of propeller rotors on each wing tip. Once airborne, the rotors tilt forward so the aircraft resembles a dragon fly with turboprops.

"The CV-22 has the capability to fly at turboprop speeds like a C-130 (Hercules), pull into helicopter mode and land like an MH-53J/M Pave Low," said Lt. Gen. Michael W. Wooley, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, at a March 2006 ceremony celebrating the delivery of the first operational CV-22 to the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland AFB, N.M. where special operations pilots and aircrews receive advanced training. "This is truly transformational for Air Force Special Operations Command."

AFOTEC has been involved in all V-22 operational testing opportunities since the late 1990s. V-22 is a large Acquisition Category 1D joint program that includes the Marine MV-22. In past testing, AFOTEC was integrated into all three Marine operational evaluation periods. AFOTEC led the first operational utility evaluation in June 2006. AFOTEC's next involvement in CV-22 operational testing will a cold weather evaluation at Eielson AFB, Alaska.

"AFOTEC's involvement in the V-22 test program is important because we are the unbiased voice providing information on the aircraft and where it stands in regard to meeting the requirements of the capabilities production document," said Lt. Col. Michael Hargis, AFOTEC's CV-22 program test director. "It is critical that we translate what we evaluate into terms acquisition decision makers and the warfighter can understand and use in making decisions to field the CV-22, whether to buy more or less, and exactly what the system does for the warfighter when employed."

Air Force Special Operations Command pursued the CV-22 to fill a void in the long-range insertion and extraction of special operation forces in politically denied territories in any climate or weather condition. The aircraft's ability to hover and land and takeoff vertically gives it more versatility than existing MC-130s and provides flexibility to the special operations mission that has never existed for long-range missions. The CV-22's increased fuel capacity, compared to a helicopter, reduces the need for mid-air refueling. Additionally, reducing the number of stages in a strike plan means fewer aircraft are needed for support.

The Air Force is providing warfighters advanced and reliable tools to accomplish their mission by combining the capabilities of two distinctly different aircraft. The CV-22 is being hailed by military officials as a cornerstone technology that will have significant and long-term implications for future combat operations.

Even Hollywood recognizes the revolutionary design of the CV-22 and included it during July 2006 filming at Holloman AFB, N.M., for the July 2007 live-action film "Transformers." The CV-22 Osprey and F-117 Nighthawk are featured prominently in the movie as both static background and taxiing aircraft. "Transformers" is the largest movie project since "Black Hawk Down" to receive Department of Defense approval and was based upon how accurately military forces are portrayed in director Michael Bay's film.

The capability of the CV-22 will transform the special operations force mission and allows the Air Force Special Operations Command to move into the future giving special operators the ability to get farther and faster with vertical lift capability. The CV-22 is certainly more than meets the eye.

As the Air Force's credible operational test force, AFOTEC's mission is to test and evaluate the CV-22 in realistic battlespace environments to provide decision makers accurate, balanced, and complete assessments of the aircraft's mission capability. From concept development to system fielding, AFOTEC maintains an operational focus to ensure America's warfighters have the right tools to win present and future battles.