November 2016

2016 November photoU.S. Marine Corps/Boeing AV-8B Harrier II and Bell Boeing MV-22B Osprey
YAV-8B (converted AV-8A) aerodynamic prototype first flight: November 9, 1978
V-22A first flight: March 19, 1989

The US Marine Corps developed the concept of amphibious Vertical Envelopment in 1946, with an objective of achieving an all-vertical aviation force. The helicopter was widely used by the Marines (and all other services) in the Korean War and has become a mainstay of Marine Corps Aviation.

When British companies the Hawker Aircraft (later part of British Aerospace and now BAE Systems) and Bristol (now part of Rolls-Royce) began developing a high-speed vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) fighter aircraft in 1957, it eventually attracted the attention of the US Marine Corps for its amphibious assault requirements.

After extensive development of the P.1127 Kestrel technology demonstrators, the first of six production-designed Harrier developmental aircraft flew on Aug. 31, 1966. The production GR1 Harrier entered service with the UK Royal Air Force on April 1, 1969 powered by the 19,000 lb Rolls-Royce Pegasus Mk 101. US Marine Corps AV-8As were purchased in 1969, powered by the 21,500 lb thrust Pegasus 11. A navalized version, the FRS1 Sea Harrier, entered service with the Royal Navy in 1980.

McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace — today’s Boeing and BAE Systems began developing the AV-8B GR5 Harrier II in 1974, and began flight testing in 1981. With a more powerful engine, a larger, composite supercritical wing, optimized Lift Improvement Devices (LIDs) and other improvements, the Harrier II was able to double the payload and range when making short takeoffs. The F402-RR-408 Pegasus 11-61 has now reached 23,800 lb thrust. In addition to the USMC, the UK Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, the Harrier has also been operated by Spain, Italy, India and Thailand.

Meanwhile, Bell Helicopter Textron and Boeing Vertol were selected in 1983 to develop their tilt rotor concept — proven with the XV-15 technology demonstrator — into the Army/Navy/Marine Corps/Air Force V-22. It is powered by two Allison T406-AD-400 engines which drive 38 ft three-blade rotors on a 45 ft wingspan. The Osprey made its first flight on March 19, 1989 and first transition on Sept. 14, 1989.

Normal vertical take-off weight is 47,500 lb, while maximum gross weight for a short take-off and landing can be as high as 60,000 lb, including up to 20,000 lb of internal or external payload. Combat range is about 600 miles, while maximum ferry range is 2,400 miles. The first of four "production representative" test aircraft began flying on 5 February 1997.

The United States Marine Corps began crew training for the Osprey in 2000, and fielded it in 2007; it supplemented and then replaced their Boeing CH-46 Sea Knights. The Osprey's other operator, the U.S. Air Force, fielded their version of the tiltrotor in 2009. Since entering service with the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force, the Osprey has been deployed in transportation and medevac operations over Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Kuwait.

The Osprey has also been selected for use by the US Navy, and the militaries of Israel and Japan. In addition, India, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates have expressed strong interest.

When the F-35B Lightning II short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter became operational in July 2015, the US Marine Corps had finally achieved the basis for an “all vertical force” of helicopters, tiltrotors and jet-borne STOVL aircraft.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ty C. Connors, U.S.Navy)

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