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Airframe: The CV-22 Osprey

  • Published
  • By J.M. Eddins Jr.
  • Airman Magazine

The CV-22 Osprey is a tiltrotor aircraft that combines the vertical takeoff, hover and vertical landing qualities of a helicopter with the long-range, fuel efficiency and speed characteristics of a turboprop aircraft.

Its mission is to conduct long-range infiltration, exfiltration and resupply missions for special operations forces.



The CV-22 Osprey is the Special Operation Forces variant of the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey.

An aborted rescue attempt of 52 hostages during the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1980 culminated in a helicopter crashing into a transport aircraft. The fire destroyed both aircraft and killing eight servicemen.

The accident underscored the requirement for a new inter-service, long-range, high-speed, vertical-takeoff aircraft.

In response, the Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental, or JVX, aircraft program started in 1981. The helicopter divisions of Bell and Boeing were awarded a contract in 1983 to develop the aircraft. The Bell / Boeing team produced the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft which first flew in 1989.

The complexity of being the first tiltrotor for military service led to many years of development with the U.S. Marine Corps training crews beginning in 2000 and finally fielding the MV-22B in 2007.he first two Air Force test aircraft were delivered to Edwards Air Force Base, California, in September 2000. The 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, began CV-22 aircrew training with the first two production aircraft in August 2006.

The first operational CV-22 was delivered to Air Force Special Operations Command in January 2007. Initial operational capability was achieved in 2009. A total of 51 CV-22 aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2019.


This versatile, self-deployable aircraft offers increased speed and range over other rotary-wing aircraft, enabling AFSOC aircrews to execute long-range special operations missions. The CV-22 can perform missions that normally would require both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. The CV-22 takes off vertically and once airborne, the nacelles (engine and prop-rotor group) on each wing can rotate into a forward position.

The CV-22 is equipped with integrated threat countermeasures, terrain-following radar, forward-looking infrared sensor and other advanced avionics systems that allow it to operate at low altitude in adverse weather conditions and medium- to high-threat environments.


  • The four Air Force CV-22s flew nonstop from Hurlburt Field, Florida to Mali with in-flight refueling in support of Exercise Flintlock in November 2008. It was the U.S. Air Force’s first operational deployment of the Osprey.

  • The Air Force is looking to configure the CV-22 to perform combat search and rescue in addition to its primary long-range special operations transport mission.

  • The Japanese Self-Defense Force is scheduled to take delivery of five CV-22 aircraft.


  • Primary function: special operations forces long-range infiltration, exfiltration and resupply

  • Power plant: two Rolls Royce-Allison AE1107C turboshaft engines

  • Thrust: more than 6,200 shaft horsepower per engine

  • Wingspan: 84 feet 7 inches (25.8 meters)

  • Length: 57 feet 4 inches (17.4 meters)

  • Height: 22 feet 1 inch (6.73 meters)

  • Rotary diameter: 38 feet (11.6 meters)

  • Speed: 277 mph (241 knots) (cruising speed)

  • Ceiling: 25,000 feet (7,620 meters)

  • Maximum vertical takeoff weight: 52,870 pounds (23,982 kilograms)

  • Maximum rolling takeoff weight: 60,500 pounds (27,443 kilograms)

  • Armament: one .50 Cal Machine gun on ramp

  • Range: combat radius of 500 nautical miles with one internal auxiliary fuel tank

  • Payload: 24 troops (seated), 32 troops (floor loaded) or 10,000 pounds of cargo

  • Crew: four (pilot, copilot and two flight engineers)

  • Builders: Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., Amarillo, Texas; Boeing Company, Defense and Space Group, Helicopter Division, Philadelphia

  • Deployment date: 2006

  • Unit cost: $90 million

  • Inventory: active duty, 46; reserve, 0; ANG, 0