OKINAWA, Japan -- On Dec. 17, 1903, the Wright brothers made history by successfully flying the first airplane. A few years later, on Nov. 13, 1907, Paul Cronu became the first man to successfully fly a twin rotorcraft. Fast forward to March 19, 1989, Bell pilot, Dorman Canon, and Boeing pilot, Dick Balzer, conducted the first ever Osprey flight.
Today, the U.S. Marine Corps uses the Osprey MV-22 Bravo model. This model has a helicopter mode in which the rotors face toward the sky, at a 96 degree angle, and also an airplane mode, where the rotors face forward at a 0 degree angle. Ospreys can easily deliver troops and supplies into areas other aircraft cannot land because the rotating rotors allow for a vertical takeoff and landing. The Osprey can also fly the speed of an airplane allowing it to make a speedy departure if needed.
“[Ospreys] have the ability to travel further than its predecessor [the CH-46] did,” said Cpl. Carl Hoover Jr., the enlisted aircrew training manager for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (VMM-262), Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. “The Osprey is able to do this because in airplane mode it can travel faster.”
On top of being able to travel faster, the Osprey is capable of air to air refueling. When conducting an in-flight refuel, the Osprey will fly slightly below and behind the other aircraft which lowers a tube that connects to the Osprey and fuels it.
Because III Marine Expeditionary Force is located in a region where there may be large distances between fueling points, having the ability to fly over long distances adds to the lethality of the Osprey.
“For example, we can take off, fly 600 nautical miles without refueling and then land vertically into an unprepared zone,” said Captain T.J. Mullins, the weapons and tactics instructor and the pilot training officer for VMM-262. “Then combine that with the fact that we can refuel air to air, basically gives us unlimited range.”
This virtually unlimited range makes III MEF capable of sending Marines across the Pacific to wherever they may be needed. III MEF is a forward-deployed force meaning, if needed, Marines have to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice.
The rotating rotors on the Osprey allow for a speedy vertical lift off like a helicopter, and a rapid acceleration, with the rotors forward like an airplane, allowing Marines to quickly respond to where they are needed.
Mullins said the Osprey was a brand new concept, and there is still no aircraft like it. Because the rotors are so large, losing a single engine could cause them to lose balance and synchronization. In order to mitigate this risk, the developers added an interconnecting drive shaft, which allows both rotors to be controlled by one engine if needed.
“The Osprey is a completely unique aircraft in and of itself,” said Mullins. “There’s all sorts of engineering concepts that have been incorporated that allow this aircraft to fly.”
The engineering concepts make the Osprey an aircraft that is like no other, and using it makes III MEF a stronger and more lethal fighting force, able to complete missions across the Indo-Pacific region.