Announced in 2017, the CMV-22B Osprey is in the process of replacing the US Navy's first C-2A Greyhounds. This replacement reached an important milestone on February 17, 2022. The CMV-22B received its Initial Operating Capability.
The concept of Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD)
The concept emerged at the start of the Second World War, within the US Navy; its ships had to sail far from Allied logistics bases without the possibility of refueling with men and materials. Seaplanes were therefore used to link the flotillas to the various ports. Their great range enables them to cover a great distance, but they cannot land on the aircraft carrier, let alone moor to it (because of the wings, not at all designed for this purpose), forcing the ships to stop at the risk of being attacked.
At the end of the war, the US Navy decided to modify TBF-Avenger torpedo bombers into cargo aircraft; the TBM-3R became the Navy's first COD. The turret was removed, the ammunition bay became a cargo bay and a door was added on the right-hand side of the aircraft. The aircraft can now carry 500 kg of equipment or 6 passengers in addition to the pilot. Transporting pilots and personnel was a priority, as spare parts were (at the time) readily available. The payload bay was therefore used more for mail transport.
The late 50s showed the TBM-3R's weakness: it had become too old and its cargo bay too small. Grumman proposed a successor, the C-1 Trader. This new aircraft is much larger than the TBM-3R, and is based on the S-2 Tracker submarine hunter, stripped of its sensors and cargo bay. The C-1 can carry 9 passengers or 3.8 tons of cargo. The first aircraft entered active service in 1955.
But the US naval aviation industry was growing ever larger, and the size and complexity of the aircraft bore little resemblance to those used in Korea. The US Navy needed a cargo carrier, and the C-1 soon became too small to transport the various aircraft parts. Grumman returned once again with a new COD, based on the E-2 Hawkeye radar spotter. However, Grumman did not simply remove the radar detection equipment, but developed an aircraft entirely designed for its role as COD.
The C-2 thus features a cargo ramp at the rear (as opposed to a door on the right-hand side of the C-1) to carry large parts and allow rapid loading/unloading, and a fastening system is also designed specifically for the payload bay to secure any cargo the C-2 might carry.
The C-2s thus began to replace the C-1s in 1966. These aircraft still fly today, although a modernized version, the C-2A, was introduced in the late 1980s. These aircraft are capable of carrying 26 passengers or 4.5 tons of equipment. Most flights, however, are made in a mixed passenger/cargo configuration.
A new operational COD in the US Navy
In the early 2010s, the Pentagon was already looking for the Navy's future COD. At the time, the US Navy was looking to standardize onboard aircraft; the COD would have to become a multifunctional aircraft, not just a liaison plane between the mainland and the aircraft carrier. It was at this point that Boeing and Bell Helicopter proposed a modified version of the Marine Corps Osprey. This version was officially chosen in 2015 as the replacement for the C-2A.
The new COD, named CMV-22B, is thus based on the MV-22B Osprey on which the kerosene carrying capacity has been increased and a high-frequency radio and a Public Address (PA) system have been added. The aircraft thus descends from a family of tiltrotors tested and approved in operations (apart from the 3 additions), enabling the US Navy to reduce testing and the development of training schemes for pilots, technicians, etc...
Since February 18, 2022, the CMV-22B has obtained confirmation of its initial operating capability (IOC) within the US Navy (the aircraft is autonomous in terms of maintenance and operational in all its missions within a squadron) after its first deployment.
The US Navy then has a multifunctional aircraft that is far more efficient than the C-2A:
- transport of 23 passengers or 5 tons of equipment over long distances
- unlike the C-2A, the CMV-22B can be refueled in flight
- logistical support to naval units near and far: it can land or deliver slung cargo to ships both within and far from the task force. With the C-2A, cargo and men had to be transshipped in helicopters that didn't have the same range or carrying capacity as the CMV-22B.
The US Navy expects to receive 44 CMV-22Bs.
A COD in the French Navy?
The COD principle is only used within the US Navy. The Charles de Gaulle and its embarked air group don't need a COD, since the French naval air group isn't usually far from French or allied ports. This allows the wing supply ship to make a few round trips according to the needs of the naval air group, without the latter having to suffer from a shortage of equipment.
The Charles Gaulle and its embarked air group don't need a COD, since the French naval air group isn't usually far from French or allied ports.
There is only one exception, but it in no way implies a lack of logistical support, but rather a desire for very rapid action requiring more extensive logistics: operation Harmattan in Libya in 2011. At the time, the aircraft carrier was fully integrated into the coalition forces, but the logistics chain was greatly extended by the desire to move into action very quickly. The United States offered to lend two C-2A aircraft for two weeks to rotate between the naval aviation base at Hyères (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) and the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. This logistical support enabled the French Navy to ramp up its operations very quickly, while easing the burden on the wing's logistics chain.
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