Home » Aviation » Davis: V-22 Aerial Refueling System Should Be Ready For Early F-35 Operations Despite 1-Year Delay


Davis: V-22 Aerial Refueling System Should Be Ready For Early F-35 Operations Despite 1-Year Delay

The Bell Boeing V-22 Program successfully completed an initial test of the V-22 Osprey performing as an aerial refueling tanker. In the August demonstration over north Texas, a V-22 equipped with a prototype aerial refueling system safely deployed, held stable, and retracted the refueling drogue as an F/A-18 Hornet flew just behind and to the side of the aircraft. Bell Boeing photo.

The Bell Boeing V-22 Program successfully completed an initial test of the V-22 Osprey performing as an aerial refueling tanker. In the August demonstration over north Texas, a V-22 equipped with a prototype aerial refueling system safely deployed, held stable, and retracted the refueling drogue as an F/A-18 Hornet flew just behind and to the side of the aircraft. Bell Boeing photo.

The Marine Corps expects to have its V-22 Aerial Refueling System (VARS) ready for early F-35B operations despite a one-year delay in securing funding, the Marines’ top aviator told USNI News.

The F-35B, which is awaiting an initial operational capability (IOC) declaration by commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford any day now, has great capability built into it – but the MV-22 will give it even greater range, Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis told USNI News in a July 8 interview.

VARS is a roll-on/roll-off capability that allows the MV-22 to refuel other aircraft in flight. It can carry up to 10,000 pounds of gas and, if brought along on an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG)/Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) deployment, would allow the MV-22 to operate as a tanker for the F-35B when needed and shed the equipment easily when taking on transport missions.

Davis said the Marines are developing a program of record for the Bell Boeing-built VARS and are hoping to get it funded in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget after failing to secure funding in the 2016 budget request to Congress.

“I screwed up the way I sold it, I’ll take the blame for that. We tried to sell it as an F-35 capability. But it’s like, hey, you’re not going to sea in the F-35 … [Fiscal Year 2018] is your first shipboard deployment, so you don’t need it right away,” Davis said of the budget request negotiation process.

“But you can do it for AV-8s, for V-22s, for everything,” he continued. “We couldn’t get it into this funding cycle, but we’ll get it in the next one. It makes such great sense, there’s a lot of support for it. Right now we don’t have enough tankers out there, so this is again multi-missionizing something that we have. And I think the other nations that are going to power project from the seabase have the same problem. So it could be other nations are going to look at this like, hey, we need to get an airplane like this.”

The first F-35B squadron, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, will move to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan in a permanent change of station in January 2017, Davis said. According to the 2015 Marine Aviation Plan, VARS was “being developed to align the fielding of the system with the F-35B WESTPAC deployment in summer 2017,” the first time the squadron would go to sea after the change of station. It is unclear how that schedule will be affected by the one-year delay in funding for a program of record.

The aviation plan notes that VARS will first be fielded for use by tactical aviation platforms, followed by other MV-22s and helicopters. The MV-22 is also expected to receive enhanced defensive weapons and upgrades to perform casualty evacuations.

The Bell-Boeing V-22 Program first announced successful testing of the refueling tanker capability in September 2013, saying that the V-22 extended, held steady and retracted its refueling drogue as two Hornets flew behind it. Internal company testing continued, and now four MV-22s have relocated to Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 22 (VMX-22) in Yuma, Ariz., for the sole purpose of experimentation. These aircraft will continue testing VARS, as well as airborne command and control packages and weapons systems, as they move towards production and fielding.

  • Tyler Baldwin

    For emphasis this only applies to the F-35B, NOT the A/C models.

    • Curtis Conway

      The “C” will have a (the exact same) probe too.

      • old guy

        Same probe and problems

        • Curtis Conway

          I will remain optimistic. The advances represented by the Combat System are truly extraordinary. The specific unique capabilities of the “B” could revolutionize naval aviation.

  • Curtis Conway

    A probe and drogue tanker is a probe and drogue tanker. Someone really dropped the ball here. The V-22 Aerial Refueling System (VARS) is needed to accompany Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, while it moves to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan and that permanent change of station happens in 2017. When the new Amphibious Ready Groups get underway with F-35Bs the VARS system should already be mature, deployed, exercised and ready. The Navy Department is asleep at the wheel . . . in my humble opinion.

    • old guy

      Good thinking, but can you just picture a mob of V-22 “Hairsprays” in such an operation. Mind boggling.

      • Curtis Conway

        If you have time take a peak at the facebook page for ‘EV-22 Osprey AEW&C Aircraft’. We explore what a V-22 could realistically be expected to do. Since the order of the day is to do more with less, and perform many missions with a single platform, we look at the Amphibious Warfare Community and its needs, and what options that can be exercised that gives our naval force the greatest bang for its buck. The introduction of the V-22 COD is now a done deal, so we need to focus on what else it can do. My premise is to incorporate the Marine V-22 tanker capability into VRC-30 and VRC-40, as well as the COD mission, and grow the platform into the AEW&C mission for Expeditionary Strike Groups (USMC centric operations), and Light Carrier Battle Groups (US Navy centric operations), which buys us a lot of capability synergistically, and causes the VRC squadrons to grow. Greater size, more personnel, multiple detachments on both coasts, but focusing on VRC-30 in the Pacific.

        The next problem is to respond to the increased logistics burden placed on underway Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs). The ‘KC-3A Super Viking’ page explores the possibilities for the 100+ S-3 airframes at AMARG. Not all of the airframes are capable of being restored to flyable condition, but every one of them is a beginning for something. We suggest a new Super COD/Tanker. The Next Gen AEW&C can grow into this airframe in 20 years, if we still have one. I’m betting we will. The E-2s will need replacing some day and the “D” Advanced Hawkeye is just coming on line with all its new capabilities.

        EV-22 Osprey AEW&C Aircraft and the KC-3A Super Viking can help usher the US Navy Aviation Community into a more successful future. Might want to take a look.

      • Curtis Conway

        If there were multiple present they would set up a Tanker Track just like anywhere else on the planet and you would fly up, join in the usual horizontal/vertical fashion, fuel up and depart. Bing, Bang, Boom done in minutes when everything is working. Don’t see any difficulties here.

        I used to boohoo the V-22 before it started flying combat mission because my estimation was that battle damage would do the huge prop radius-es in. It didn’t. Bullets going through the fuselage in Africa got some of our people, but there is a mod for that now, and they are . . being modded.

        The V-22 is here to stay so all the Nay-Sayers need to just accept it and move on. Some creative ways to solve the pressurization problem must be devised so we can squeeze more performance out of this unique combat system at greater altitudes with the crew in relative comfort.

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  • bohemond

    Since this is a modular system, it might very well work with the Navy’s V-22 COD aircraft as well, giving CVWs an alternative to buddy-tanking.

    • old guy

      Don’t fit .

  • old guy

    Why is this hoax perpetuated?
    Let’s see:
    1. In order to reach f-35 refuel speed and stay on station for 30 minutes, it would only carry 8200# of jet fuel.
    2. The “EASY convertibility” is a hoax. It would take 2-3 days to change mission.
    3. In refuel configuration, it would be the most dangerous plane in the air.

  • irv lichtenstein

    It would apply to any aircraft equipped for probe and drogue refueling and capable of controlled flight at the refueller’s speed. The Air Force tends to use the Boeing flying boom system while everybody else uses the drogue. Secondary use: can it pump 10,000 pounds of fire retardant out the ramp as well?

    • old guy

      Now that you mention it, the Beriev 210 can drop 3,000 gallons (24,000#) of water in 5 to 30 seconds. it picks it up in 15 seconds. I did it at “Gydroaviasalon, 2006” at Anapa, Russia. Wouldn’t be such a bad thing for California, eh? Check it out

      CANADA, using the Canadair 415 has not had a runaway fire in 14 years. Russia had 3 when they let their Beriev 200 fall into disrepair. They are now operational again.

  • old guy

    A JUMP deck adds the equivalent of~200 mile range for a Sea Harrier. It could do the same for a F-35.

    • Blair Maynard

      A jump deck gives 200 mile additional range compared to what? Vertical take off or taking off from the non-catapult deck of the USS America? But this is an argument for a jump deck, not against using the V-22 for refueling. Refueling an F-35 which took off from a jump deck would still be a help. The refueling rendezvous might have to wait a bit longer, so I guess the V-22 refueler would have to be sent out earlier since it would have to meet the F-35 200 miles further on its mission. Still useful.

      • old guy

        Silly mission. Crappy A/C.
        Why is this hoax perpetuated?

        Let’s see: I gave the range increase for the Sea Harrier over a vertical take off, fully loaded. BUT ALSO:

        1. In order to go out 250 miles, reach f-35 refuel speed,, and stay on station for 30 minutes, it would only carry 7,000# of jet fuel.
        2. The “EASY convertibility” is a hoax. It would take 2-3 days to change mission.
        3. In refuel configuration, it would be the most dangerous plane in the air.

        • Secundius

          @ old guy.

          According to “Citizendium” Total Expendable Fuel Storage including External Stores for the KC-22C. Is a ~17,290-pounds or ~9,625-Liters of JP-8 Aviation Fuel (JP-8 is ~6.8#/gal.)…

          • old guy

            NONSENSE. Boy I hate to disagree with you, but in this case you’re references are dead wrong. Even the company liars do not make this ridiculous claim. Go to the company’s official brochure. I tried to post their operating envelope, but it wouldn’t work.

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            CITIZENDIUM: V-22C Osprey. Fuel Giveaway, Auxiliary + Internals = 17,290#…

          • old guy

            Please read the Company specs. I don’t know citi….

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            I did, Specifications were for the “A” Model. Clearly listed in the Model Specification as V-22A Osprey. Listed Horsepower Rating of 6,150shp per engine. “C” Model is rated at 10,000shp per engine…

          • old guy

            Wrong spec. Added HP with Added weight of fuel and engine only improved deadweight lift, not range, speed or capacity

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            Are you referring the the Block “C” Model, or the Actual “C” Model. Block “C”, is a uprated “B” Model, “C” Model has yet to go into production…

          • old guy

            I’m referencing the data I got from Bell/Boeing at the last Sea/air/Space conference, earlier this year in D.C.

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            Unfortunately, its NOT the same Model, Sir. Fuselage width dimensions are consistent with the “B” Model at 135-inches. The “C” Model, the fuselage width is increased to 165-inches. Also the Armament configuration with the deployable Dillon M134 7.61x51mm/NATO “Minigun” of the “B” Model. The “C” Model is deployable with the FNH M3 12.7x99mm/BMG Heavy Machine Gun. It’s the Block 4C or just “C” upgrade to the MV-22B Osprey, Sorry. “C” Model also consists of Four Under-Wing Hardpoints. The “B” Model only consists of One Small Under-Wing Hardpoint…

          • old guy

            They said it was for the “tanker”

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            I looked at EVERY Osprey Configuration, ALL had the SAME BASIC Dimensions. Even with an Internal Pallet load of 20,000-pounds. The Tanker Pallet I specified weigh’d in a 17,290-pounds. Well within the 20,000-pound configuration…

          • old guy

            The best a 22 can lift (on a hook) is the 155 MM howitzer with 10 rounds. Total wt.=13,500#. I have a photo. You’ll have to show me more than a claim.

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            But it has a “Short Duration” Internal Gross Overweight of 20,000-pounds for the “B'” model and 22,000-pounds for Block “C” model. I saw that too. And a 15,000-pounds Sling-Load for the “B” and 17,000-pounds Sling-Load for the Block “C” over a range of 110nmi. maximum, which it doesn’t specify Model Types…

          • old guy

            BUT refueling is a LONG duration mission. Fly out, Dwell, Refuel, Return. Unless you refuel above the V22 Hairspray’s carrier.

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            Not if there Texaco’ng Flights, just after Catapult Launches. Navy/Marine Corps Planes that are Catapulted with Gross Weapon Loads, usually carry only a 30-minute Fuel Reserve. And Top-Off their Fuel Tanks at the Nearest Tanker Available. Which means the Tankers are Orbiting about 10nmi. from the Aircraft Carrier…

          • old guy

            I will NOT argue about V-22 any more. IT IS CRAP. I HAVE WRITTEN PAPER AFTER PAPER WHEN I WAS DIR. R&D DEVELOPMENT WITH DETAILS AND ANALYSES. SO NOW I QUIT. THE FORCES OF MONEY, PANDERING AND FOOLISHNESS HAVE WON. I HOPE FOR THE BEST. SORRY FOR THE CAPS, I DIDN’T NOTICE THE LOCK WAS ON.

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            I’ve never see one up close, never heard one with engine at ideal or full-power, never seen one in flight. All My information is through Other-People’s Eye’s and/or Writing’s, Log-Book’s, Maintenance Log’s, or Companies Literature, with a little Wikipedia thrown in…

        • Secundius

          @ old guy.

          Two or three Days, to reconfigure for a different mission, is a Little Hard to Swallow. Having worked on a CH-47B/C, Couple Hours if your Lucky. But certainly NOT DAYS. NOT in Wartime Conditions…

          • old guy

            It requires structural mods (reinforcing struts and plates, rebalancing, installation and connection of drogue controls and power, etc. If it is accepted I ann sure pre-assembly of equipment will follow that greatly reduces time

  • Secundius

    “C” Model Osprey’s fuselage to be widened from 135-inches to 190-inches, rear loading ramp widened from 70-inches to 90-inches. (2) remote FNH 12.7x99mm M3 Guardians, optional standard weaponry. One at rear entry ramp with 400-rounds @ 10-round bursts, and second to be lowered in flight through floor hatch with 800-rounds @ 20-round bursts. Machine Guns range is to be set at ~914.4-meters (3,000-feet)…

    • old guy

      TERRIFIC, NOW. add fuselage mounted engines, short cross shaft, tilt wing or a horizontal thruster and you’ve got something. Watch the future craft come to this design.

  • Blair Maynard

    The important part is it can refuel other V-22s too. So an attacking V-22 force can contain a mixture of refueling V-22s and loaded V-22s, thereby significantly increasing the attacking fleet’s standoff capability and giving an enemy very little time to reposition assets to defend.

    • old guy

      GREAT the useless HUNK-A-JUNK HAIRSPRAY can now bring its vulnerability and low utility farther. Whoopee!!!!
      We could be developing REAL capable aircraft such as compounds and tilt wings if it were not for this useless lobbyist/congressional money sink.

  • old guy

    Let’s call a spade, a spade. The V-22 should be called “The Lobbyist’s Triumph.
    As I have stated in earlier posts, this Hunk-a-Junk overcame my objections of several OPNAV Generals and Admirals and those of 3 M/C Commandants, 1 Comnavair, while it wasted well over 3 Bigabucks and 4 lives, in its early 90s development. This is the last time I will comment on V-22, I give up.

  • Ed L

    can the V-22 refuel a CH-53? how about a Fleet Hornet? I always though the Osprey was kind of cool. Not thrill with the design, engines in pods. Was always leaning in favor of drive shafts. Question, would electric motors work?