CV-22 Osprey – Versatile but Expensive to Operate

CV-22 Osprey in Exercise Southern Strike (photo 26 Oct 2016 by SA Jeff Parkinson, 1st SOW)
CV-22 Osprey in Exercise Southern Strike (photo 26 Oct 2016 by SA Jeff Parkinson, 1st SOW)

The Marines and Air Force have V-22 Ospreys in their inventory. The MV-22 is the Marine Corps tiltrotar aircraft while the CV-22 is the Air Force Special Operations Forces (AFSOC) tiltrotar aircraft. Despite some early safety issues during the development phase the aircraft has matured into an extremely valuable airframe. It has primarily replaced various helicopters of the Marine Corps (primarily the CH-46 Sea Knights) and Air Force. The AFSOC retired the MH-53 for the CV-22 Osprey. The first CV-22s to be used operationally were  delivered to the Air Force in January 2007. Currently (Dec 2016) there are almost 50 CV-22s.

CV-22 Osprey

Characteristics of the Osprey. The Osprey can take off and land vertically like a helicopter and also hover. Once in flight it is much faster than a helicopter – with greater range and fuel efficiency. It is a ‘vertical takeoff and landing’ (VTOL) and ‘short takeoff and landing’ (STOL) aircraft. Infiltration of special operations ground troops can be conducted a number of ways to including airlanding at a landing zone (LZ) or helicopter landing zone (HLZ), fastroping (a little dicy when going onto a rooftop due to the strong rotor wash), or parachuting. The aircraft can be refueled in mid-air by an MC-130H. Some CV-22s are armed with guns on the rear loading ramp.

CV-22 Gun on Ramp

Shortcomings of the Osprey. Unfortunately there are some disadvantages to the CV-22 Osprey. One shortcoming is that it is a complicated piece of machinery that requires a lot of maintenance. Much more maintenance than helicopters. That makes the CV-22 more expensive to operate and reduces the available flying time as well. A second factor is the limitation on the size of vehicles the CV-22 can load within its interior. The Marine Corps found that the dimensions of the Osprey did not allow for many of their light vehicles to be transported inside the aircraft. The Marines are now looking to invest in small, light vehicles that will fit the interior of the MV-22. [1]

CV-22 Ospreys 1st SOW

Operational Missions of the CV-22. The CV-22 is used by AFSOC to conduct long-range infiltration, exfiltration and resupply missions for special operations forces. Some special equipment aids in the ability to perform the deep-penetration mission. This includes integrated threat countermeasures, terrain-following radar, infrared sensors, and advanced avionics. It can operate in bad weather conditions and in high-threat environments.


[1] See “The Marine Corps Needs More Vehicles That Fit Inside Osprey, Report Finds”DoDBuzz, November 16, 2016.

Read more:

“Logistics: V-22 Gets Special to Survive”Strategy Page, November 15, 2016.

CV-22 Osprey Fact Sheet, United States Air Force

Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, WikipediA

V-22 Osprey, Boeing

About John Friberg 201 Articles
John Friberg is the Editor and Publisher of SOF News. He is a retired Command Chief Warrant Officer (CW5 180A) with 40 years service in the U.S. Army Special Forces with active duty and reserve components.