By Gidge Dady
V-22 PUBLIC AFFAIRS
The V-22 government and industry integrated test team (ITT) has just concluded a successful sea trials for the engineering and manufacturing, development (EMD) MV-22 aircraft aboard two amphibious ships, USS Saipan and USS Tortuga.
"The naval team brought this success to the V-22. Integration occurred between the engineering competency, the integrated test team, program management and Bell-Boeing, all giving 110 percent to solve the aircraft's lateral stability issue raised in the January sea trials. Other key members were the Saipan and Tortuga crews and command elements that provided the flexibility to allow these sea trials to be added to their busy schedules," said Col. Nolan Schmidt, V-22 program manager.
During the January-February sea trials period which was conducted aboard the LHA class ship, USS Saipan, the MV-22 completed more than 350 landings and tests to determine its suitability for operations aboard large deck amphibious ships, as well as all of its required maintenance and nonflying tests. The MV-22 returned to sea in August and September to complete additional shipboard testing which included expanding the launch and recovery envelope for various port and starboard landing spots on both ships, and to validate the improvements in the automatic flight control system.
While on USS Saipan, the pilots established parameters for wind conditions for six helicopter landing spots, executed 260 day and night vertical launches and 269 recoveries over these landing spots, and performed nine short takeoffs. As part of the external loads requirements, the MV-22 lifted a 4,000-pound, netted load on a single point hook and, for the first time aboard ship, a 6,300-pound High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle on a dual point hook.
Accomplishments aboard the LSD class ship, USS Tortuga, also included building the wind envelope for two landing spots and completing more than 75 day and night launches and recoveries on these spots. Now that the wind tolerances for safely launching and landing the MV-22 on the ship's helicopters spots have been defined, the Osprey can fly on and off any of the LHA/LHD/LSD/LPD amphibious class ships. "This was one of our primary objectives in returning to sea the second time and, now that we have established the launch and recovery envelope, the MV-22 is ready to move into operational evaluation," said Lt.Col. John Rudzis, V-22 government flight test director.
The other portion of testing that was evaluated during the recent sea trials was the improvement in the flight control system software. This improvement, which corrected the lateral stability problem, was tested here at the Manned Flight Simulator as well as the Boeing shipboard simulator before testing them at sea. "Shipboard tests also validated the upgraded software which now enables the aircraft to respond more quickly and predictably to pilot inputs during takeoffs and landings," said Rudzis.
Now that the EMD sea trials are completed, the next milestone is operational evaluation, the final report card for the MV-22. During this seven-month evaluation, beginning this month, the MV-22 will receive a grade on whether it is operationally suitable and effective for fleet introduction. The aircraft used in the EMD sea trials were the test birds; however, the aircraft that will be operationally evaluated are the first lot of low rate initial production MV-22s. A favorable recommendation will support the full rate production decision.