Everyone’s V-22s are flying again—and may do so past 2060

Everyone’s V-22s are flying again—and may do so past 2060

The U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force are all flying and deploying their V-22 Ospreys again, after the Pentagon’s monthslong grounding was lifted in March.

“We’re back to flying. We got all services back in the sky,” Marine Col. Brian Taylor, the V-22 program manager, said Tuesday during the Modern Day Marine conference.  

Each service had its own plan to get its tiltrotor aircraft flying again after the three-month grounding. All V-22s halted operations in December after a “materiel failure” caused an Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 crash off the coast of Japan, killing eight airmen. 

The program still doesn’t know why the part failed, but Taylor told Defense One they have narrowed down the root cause and identified “all the modes that can possibly end up with this outcome.”

“For this particular incident, we are confident that what we are doing is addressing all of the ways that this particular failure can manifest itself,” Taylor said. 

Osprey pilots and crewmembers aren’t worried about flying again, Taylor added. There may be “onesies or twosies” concerned—but “we have not had any indications that the aircrew have lost confidence in this platform.”

At the conference, Taylor detailed modernization plans to keep Ospreys flying through the 2060s, including upgrades to the aircraft’s cockpit and software. He said he wants to focus on the future of the platform and not to “talk much about the past.”

The Osprey program is working on a long-term plan called “ReVAMP,” which stands for Renewed V-22 Aircraft Modernization Program, to figure out what the V-22 would look like if they could do it “all again,” Taylor said. 

The program has learned the fuselage has basically “unlimited” life, so if they put a new wing and nacelle on the plane, “we’re probably good for another 40 years,” Taylor said. 

The long-term plan is still in its beginning stage, but it will examine how to make the V-22 available into the “2060s and 70s,” he said. 

Another aspect of ReVAMP could be “pilot optional” features, according to slides accompanying Taylor’s presentation, although Taylor didn’t detail the potential of autonomous features on the Osprey. 

In the near term, the program is working on a cockpit refresh, called the V-22 Cockpit Technology Replacement, or VeCToR, to update the current outdated cockpit.

“Again, these are a bunch of screens and displays and keyboards and stuff that were developed, back in the late 80s, so keeping them on the aircraft is pretty challenging. But we are kind of at a tipping point where we are spending enough on just maintaining what we have that it’s time to do something different,” Taylor said. 

The cockpit refresh program will look for commercial, off-the-shelf technologies that can be implemented on the aircraft, he said.  

And, he said, the Osprey program as a whole is focusing on sustainment, since the last batch of aircraft was likely bought in the fiscal 2024 budget.  

“I don’t think there are going to be any more aircraft, so the production line [is] coming to a close. But like I said before, we got VeCToR, which is helping, but ReVAMP is kind of the next cycle of this thing, so you’re going to see V-22s darkening the skies for the next 30 or 40 years without question. There’s a ton of life left in this platform, and there’s a ton of mission left in this platform,” Taylor said. 

Absent any improvements, Taylor said the Osprey’s limit is likely 2062. After that, there would likely be some serious challenges with the aircraft. 

Once the program office finishes the new study, it will go back to the services and figure out where to invest, he said. But there could be a “completely different” platform, like a new, high-speed vertical take-off and landing aircraft, where the services will want to put their modernization dollars, Taylor said.   

“I would love to see the V-22 stay in service for the next 100 years, but if there’s a better thing that we need to pivot to, then that’s really kind of up to the services,” he said.

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