13 December 2011 - by Tony Osborne- Shepard Group
Israeli Air Force (IAF) helicopter pilots who test flew the V-22 Osprey have said the aircraft would need to find a new role within the air arm rather than replace another type, it has emerged.
Lt Col Nimrod Golan and Lt Col Avi Carmeli test flew the MV-22 Osprey during a series of evaluation flights at MCAS New River, North Carolina in May and July this year.
As part of the trials, the two officers flew several hours in the aircraft, including conducting aerial refuelling from a KC-130J. They also flew sorties in the simulators at New River where all US Marine Corps and Air Force crews are trained to fly the type.
In comments on the IAF’s website, Golan, a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot, said: 'We realised that the plane will absolutely change the name of the game. It will be able to carry out operations that we never imagined that one of our planes could execute. If we purchase the plane, our ranges of activity will dramatically change and we'll be able to reach points we've never even dreamed of.'
The crews put the tiltrotor through a series of tests, which included trying to stall the aircraft; they also described their concerns about the transition from fixed wing flight into vertical flight.
'In the mid-stage you feel like you're losing control of the plane. I imagined that the fly-by-wire system would function more smoothly, but [we] discovered that in some cases we needed to intervene,' explained Carmeli, a CH-53 pilot with the IASF's Flight Test Centre.
The evaluation team also examined the sort of missions the IASF might use the aircraft for. While they recognised the type's long-range capabilities, they also felt that the type offered only a few advantages over traditional helicopters.
'We examined how the plane would alter operational activities we've carried out and will carry out in the future deep in enemy lines,’ explained Golan.
'While some of the operations would have changed completely with its help, there are some that would not have been altered at all. For example, in the situation in which we needed to bring back forces from Lebanon, I suspect that the plane had no real advantages. It's safe to assume that when evacuating injured people inside Israel, the plane would be a less efficient choice, but when rescuing from far away land, using the plane would make a significant difference.'
The pilots say they cannot see the MV-22 replacing the CH-53, especially as the Osprey's cargo capacity is two-thirds that of the Sikorsky, while the costs per flight hour are also similar, although the US Naval Air Systems Command Joint V-22 Program office is working to reduce that cost, claiming a reduction of 15% over the previous fiscal year.
'There are operations that we would rather carry out with the CH-53 and not with any other helicopter,' explained Carmeli.
'We need to remember one thing: The tiltrotor is a platform in itself. At the end of the day, it will have tasks of its own and will need to integrate with the existing aircraft in the force without replacing any of them.'