Composites Manufacturing Magazine

Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey Tops 400,000 Flight Hours

Boeing recently announced that the Bell Helicopter/Boeing V-22 Osprey has surpassed the 400,000 flight hour milestone. The V-22 Osprey is a joint-service, multirole combat aircraft that uses tiltrotor technology to combine the vertical performance of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft. With its nacelles and rotors in vertical position, it can take off, land and hover like a helicopter. Once airborne, its nacelles can be rotated to transition the aircraft to a turboprop airplane capable of high-speed, high-altitude flight.

The Osprey has been continuously deployed since entering service in 2007 with the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) in 2009. The aircraft has seen extensive action in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and as part of a U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) supporting a long-range rapid reaction/crisis response force.

“As the number of flight hours indicate, the V-22 Osprey is a mature platform that projects a versatile mission capability for military operations as well as humanitarian relief efforts,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Matthew Kelly, V-22 Joint Program manager.

MV-22B Osprey are operating around the globe today, transforming the way the USMC conducts assault support, humanitarian relief operations and the broad spectrum of SPMAGTF missions.

More than 43 percent of the V-22 airframe structure is fabricated from composite materials. The wing is made primarily with IM-6 carbon-epoxy solid laminates that are applied unidirectionally to give optimum stiffness. The fuselage, empennage, and tail assemblies have additional AS4 carbon fiber materials incorporated during their fabrication. Many airframe components such as stiffeners, stringers and caps, are co-cured with the skin panels. This technique provides subassemblies with fewer fasteners, thus fewer fatigue effects. The composite airframe delivers the necessary stiffness and light weight for V/STOL. It also provides additional resistance to environmental corrosion caused by salt water. The composite airframe is fatigue resistant and damage-tolerant – a feature particularly desirable for ballistic survivability.

The composite structure provides a solid strength to weight ratio, corrosion resistance, and damage tolerance compared to typical metal construction. Battle damage tolerance is built into the aircraft by means of composite construction and redundant and separated flight control, electrical, and hydraulic systems.