Skip to comments.The V-22 Osprey Finally Gets The Missiles And Rockets It Needs
Posted on 12/10/2014 4:50:51 AM PST by sukhoi-30mki
The Osprey has always lacked firepower in its forward hemisphere. Beyond its ramp-mounted gun, various concepts have been tested and fielded in an attempt to provide fire towards where the aircraft is headed, not just where it has been. This issue is compounded by the fact that the Osprey outruns traditional helicopter gunship escorts, but a solution may have finally arrived.
Now, the Bell and Boeing consortium that manufacturers the Osprey is looking to overcome this handicap in a big way, through rocket and missiles pods mounted on the Osprey's cheeks. The results of which could change the way the Osprey fights and could lead to more elaborate and deadly V-22 configurations in the future.
These new weapons stations have been primarily tested with unguided 2.75 inch 'Hydra' rockets and a guided version of the Hydra known as the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, or APKWS for short. The idea behind BAe's APKWS, and a handful of similar guided rockets from other manufacturers, is remarkably simple: Take a 2.75 inch 'Hydra' rocket motor and attach an innovative distributed aperture laser seeker system built into the control fins of a modular guidance section. In front of both the motor and the guidance section, a plethora of different fusing and warheads options can be attached, such as impact detonating high-explosive, air-burst flechette, white phosphorus and more.
When viewing the APKWS as an assembled whole, what you end up with is a lightweight, highly adaptable and very accurate attack munition, of which seven can fit in a LAU-60 style rocket pod attached to the Osprey's improvised 'cheek' weapons station. Currently, each APKWS rocket costs about $30k, which is fairly inexpensive when it comes to guided munitions. Still, that cost will likely drop drastically over time if large quantities of the rockets are bought for a wide array of helicopter, fixed wing and even ground and surface-based weapons platforms. In the end, the APKWS has the potential to become one of the cheapest powered precision guided munitions available.
These 2.75 laser-guided rockets are ideal for lightly armored and soft targets, such as armored cars and dismounted personnel. Additionally, they have a long enough range so that the firing aircraft can stay largely outside the threat envelope of small arms fire while engaging targets. Also, the fact that seven of these individually targetable rockets can be packed into a single pod makes them very attractive compared to larger missiles.
In addition to laser rockets, AGM-176 'Griffin-B' missiles have also been tested on the Osprey's experimental new weapons stations. The Griffin is a capable little missile, with various fusing options available depending on the nature of the target, including air burst, point detonation and time-delay settings for its 13lb warhead. It has a range of close 15km when fired via an aircraft, which would give the Griffin-slinging Osprey a true standoff attack capability and would provide a more potent ability to take out armored vehicles than the APKWS. It can be targeted by a laser or via GPS, which would give Osprey crews the ability to lob the missile at targets even when they are obscured visibly or are unable to be 'painted' by a laser designator for any number of reasons.
For what the Griffin adds in targeting capability, range and punch it takes away in volume of fire, with just two missiles being carried on the Osprey's stub-arm weapons station as opposed to seven APKWS rockets. There is also a non-powered version of the Griffin that can be dropped out of an aircraft. Although it does not have nearly the range and rapid transit time as the Griffin-B, they one day could be deployed via the Osprey's rear ramp or belly door via 'gunslinger tubes,' which would drastically increase the tilt-rotor's attack organic capabilities.
In all, 26 unguided 2.75 inch rockets, as well as a pair of APKWS rockets and a pair of Griffin missiles were fired during the experimental evaluation. These firings were carried out during both hover and during forward flight at 110 knots. This entire development program has been orchestrated outside of the DoD's weapons development apparatus, with Bell-Boeing's Advanced Tactical Tilt Rotor Demonstrator, which is basically a V-22 test surrogate aircraft, used for the privately funded endeavor.
The stub-arm weapons station fitted to the Osprey's cheek is said to have had no major structural loading issues whatsoever and a permanently fixed pylon could potentially carry much heavier weapons, such as gun pods, larger missiles, or even a larger APKWS rocket pod. This is probably welcome news and good business for the Bell-Boeing team as both the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and the Marines remain very interested in making their Osprey's more flexible, lethal and self-reliant, especially when it comes to providing their own fire support.
A trap-door mounted mini-gun known as the Interim Defensive Weapon System, built by BAe, was supposed to answer some of these forward firing capability gaps, but the system proved to be heavy, complex and took up a space right in the center of the V-22's narrow hold. These issues and others led the once promising system being omitted during many V-22 operations in Afghanistan.
By arming the Osprey with progressively more capable weapons, able to engage the enemy from multiple angles and at ranges that exceed that of machine guns, the Osprey will be able to rely less and less on mismatched aircraft for armed escort, a mission that at least for the Marines was traditionally fulfilled by AH-1 Cobra. Seeing as the Cobra cannot keep up with the Osprey, nor does it have anywhere near the range, a huge gap remains when it comes to the armed escort mission.
The AV-8B Harrier plays this role to a certain degree today, but it is weakly suited to operate deep in enemy airspace for prolonged periods of time. The F-35B, the Harrier's replacement and then some, will be a far better fit for the Osprey's deep insertion capabilities, but they will be in limited number and heavily tasked by the Expeditionary Strike Group for other missions. Additionally, they themselves will probably also be relying on Osprey's for tanking and communications relay duties in the not so distant future.
With all these factors in mind, the ability to provide armed escort for the existing Osprey fleet with armed Ospreys is really the most logical choice for the mission. Although such an upgrade will cost some money to field, with a new FLIR turret capable of laser designation needing to be added as well as the weapons station being attached and the weapons themselves integrated into the V-22's avionics system, even costly upgrades pale in comparison to a program that will see 240 Ospreys fielded at around $75M apiece. Since we already paid so dearly for such a large tilt-rotor force, we may as well get the very most out of it, and just one part of this is giving the existing MV-22 and CV-22 force armed escorts that properly match their unique, if not totally bizarre mission profiles.
If the AFSOC and/or the USMC decides to proceed with adding the upgraded attack capabilities that Bell-Boeing just proved the Osprey is capable of, there is a decent chance that an up-armed V-22 will not just stop at a cheek pylon full of laser guided rockets and a belly-mounted mini-gun. Similar to the latest AC-130 Gunships and KC-130 Harvest Hawks, the Osprey may one day use their cargo holds and rear-ramps for storing and deploying glide bombs such as the previously mentioned Griffin-A, in addition to externally mounted weaponry. This all leaves us with the glaring question: Just how much weaponry can you pack on the V-22's tricky airframe without having to permanently turn it into a dedicated gunship?
I guess we will just have wait patiently for the folks at Bell-Boeing to answer this question, that is if the market demands it being answered, which it almost certainly does.
With this added payload the V-22 can now carry a crew and 4 troops 500 miles.......
it’s not an Osprey, it’s a turkey!
It’s always fun and games until someone shoots their own prop off!
I didn’t see that in the article...were you just trying to poke fun at it, or am I just not seeing it?
Yes, I am a perpetual critic of the congressionally mandated system, unwanted by DOD.
“Yes, I am a perpetual critic of the congressionally mandated system, unwanted by DOD.”
I think the Marine Corps should get the most credit for keeping the Osprey program alive. They lobbied hard during the dark days of the program when others wanted to kill it. As I recall, the Marines committed to the Osprey once Bell/Boeing agreed to redesign the engines so that they would leak oil :)
Why don’t they bring back the nose mounted 40mm grenade launcher? Or even something similar to the chin turret on the B17G.
I was thinking the same thing, the crew would want some sort of nose mounted gun. But the article hints that earlier attempts to mount a forward gun developed weight problems.
You and I probably differ on this, but I really was wondering if I missed that in the article. My life is rife with incidents where my wife or a coworker asked me to grab something for them, and I can’t see it when it’s right in front of me :-)
Ha ha ha That’s a great post!
Leaking oil :-)
It is worth noting that they DID NOT include payload and range data for the V-22.
From reading the article, it sounds like the scope of the testing involved only the testing of the feasibility on the testbed platform simply to see if they could attach them and safety fire them.
I would imagineThat the testing would be more involved as they move forward, I think the title of the article is a bit misleading, because it gives you the impression that this is a done deal.
When you read it, it looks like simple feasibility testing based on what the Marine Corps or the Air Force asked what was possible to do.
It is my understanding that this airframe is already very weight-limited, and adding armaments is not a good idea, as it negates its' original raisin d'etre, which is transporting troops.
I am not sure if the issue is weight or space limitations, or both.
If it carries 24 Marines (plus three crew, maybe another crew if someone has to operate weapons) and you allow for 350 lbs for each passenger (with all gear), that comes out to a weight limit of 9800 lbs. The internal payload is around 20,000 lbs according to some sources (that is one number I saw for a hoist lift load, so it has to a vertical takeoff) so I would guess the 24 troop limit is due to space considerations and not weight, so adding external hardware such as the ordinance pods and such might not prevent them from carrying their troop loads, but would likely cut down on the range and speed, not to mention the vertical takeoff and land, but that isn’t a given.
This is only a guess.
From reading, it seems this is something they felt that they had to explore since the Osprey can outrange and outrun the traditional attack helicopters that would provide that type of armament support.
They want firepower available to be directed at where they’re going to be ingressing the troops...as the article states, they outrun conventional helo gunships.
I suspect that much will have to be done for this mod to be effective, especially considering the potential impact to range based on the pods being installed externally on the outer mold line. Drag coefficients and all.
I would still like to see a version of the V-22 that carries sonobuoys, dipping sonar, lightweight torpedoes, and Harpoons or at least Penguins.
Check the original range and outfitted troop load requirements against today’s performance....IF you can find it documented anywhere today.
My recall is that it was to have been 14 fully outfitted troops and 1500 miles.
I’m betting today’s actuals are less than half of that.
From what I’ve read in other articles is that they still have the power and space provisions to mount a turret in the future.
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