September 11, 2005
Although SOCOM (Special Operations Command) wont start getting its fifty CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft in service for another four years, it is getting two test models now. Apparently, the test aircraft are going to be tested exhaustively, for SOCOM has also ordered $19 million worth of spare parts. The U.S. Air Force component of SOCOM will use the CV-22 to replace the current MH-53J special operations helicopters. The CV-22, unlike the U.S. Marine Corps version, the MV-22, will have lots more expensive electronics on board. This will help the CV-22 when traveling into hostile territory. The CV-22 also carries a terrain avoidance radar, an additional 900 gallons of fuel and more gadgets in general. The 25 ton CV-22 is a major improvement on the MH-53, with three times the range, and a higher cruising speed (at 410 kilometers an hour, twice that of the helicopter). The CV-22 can travel about nearly a thousand kilometers, in any weather, and land or pick up 18 fully equipped commandoes.
On the downside, the V-22 is several years behind schedule. Its a very complex aircraft, and has encountered more development problems than expected. Its the first application of the tilt-rotor technology to do active service, rather than just R&D experiments. The air force is already working on improvements (to make the V22 more reliable and easier to maintain), that wont be installed for another six years. The CV-22 will give SOCOM a lot more capability, but, as it often the case, it will be a lot more expensive. The initial production models will cost close to $100 million each. SOCOM insists on a high degree of reliability for its aircraft. Commando operations cannot tolerate too many mistakes without getting fatally derailed.