What began as a planned overview about programme improvements to the BellBoeing CV-22 quickly, but beneficially, evolved into a broader discussion of how CV-22 is on the bow wave of enhancements to other Bell aircraft fielded and in development.
BellBoeing is completing three significant V-22 fleet upgrades at the behest of its customers: the addition of a defensive weapon system; nacelle improvements; and common configuration readiness and modernisation (CC-RAM).
Three upgrades will be made to the fleets’ nacelles: inlet improvement, bolstered wiring and assemblies; and the addition of an infrared suppressor on the aft part of the assembly.
With CC-RAM, BellBoeing is refocusing attention on life-cycle support for the airframe and fleet. Scott Clifton, Director of Business Development at Bell, explained, there are simply many configurations in the V-22 fleet. “As aircraft moved through production, as you found a better way ‘to do it’, you incorporated it into the production line. So that that configuration is there, but there are other aircraft you built – and now you have two different configurations. CC-RAM is designed to take the 77 configurations the Marine Corps MV-22 fleet has now and shrink them down to 2,5 and then down to five through the life support programme.”
At the end of the day, CC-RAM is also expected to benefit fleet maintainers.
These efforts are also advancing using feedback and lessons learned from the industry-military team, and with good reasons. In one instance, the approximate 350 V-22s delivered to US Marine Corps and US Air Force (CV-22) have accumulated about 500,000 flight hours. At the same time, new V-22 variants are in build for US Navy (CMV-22) and the first international customer, Japan. Mr. Clifton emphasised: “We have learned things over the production life of the V-22, so now we’re at the point of going back and improving the nacelle, because we know that is where a lot of the maintenance occurs. Now we know how we can replace wiring, remove assemblies and make it easier to work on, so there will be less maintenance required on the nacelle.”
Mr. Clifton further confirmed that, “the navy will be buying 44 CMV-22s and will begin deploying in 2021, with the first F-35A JSF deployment.”
MONCh has been closely watching the quickly evolving manned, Bell V-280 VALOR tiltrotor aircraft and its younger sibling the unmanned Bell V-247 VIGILANT tiltrotor, as well the legacy-era V-22 fleets. “These are all tiltrotors, not derivate designs. Everything we learned on 30 years of constructing V-22 has gone into V-280 when we did our clean sheet design for -280. And everything we learned on V-280 has, and will, go into -247. This is a continuum. And of course, anything we learn on V-280 and V-247 flows back into V-22,” the community expert concluded.