As the Navy approaches the first-ever deployment of its advanced carrier air wing – with the fifth-generation F-35C Joint Strike Fighter paired with the CMV-22B Osprey to serve as the carrier onboard delivery plane.
From USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and Carrier Air Wing 2 say they’ve ironed out many integration issues between the ship and the two new aircraft types and are ready for a final exercise this summer to prove they can deploy.
A lot of work went into preparing the ship and the air wing for the integration event, but the captain – a fighter pilot himself – said the new aircraft fit right into the carrier strike group environment.
It will enable us to push the fight further away, extend the range – so either supporting missions ashore or defending the carrier strike group – and make that be a further-away problem, which is always a good thing for us, protecting the high-value asset.
The CMV-22B tilt-rotor, though, took some effort to integrate into cyclic operations. Its predecessor, the C-2A Greyhound, was a fixed-wing plane that used catapult launches and arrested landings to come and go, just like the jets.
Though the Osprey can fly like a plane, it lands and takes off like a helicopter – which Locke said is much easier on the air-frame and the passengers onboard – so it took some work between the logistics and the flight deck crew to integrate a vertical takeoff and landing into the quick pace of cyclic operations on a carrier deck.
After the integration opportunity during TSTA, the V-22 can quickly transfer supplies and people to and from the ship and that the flight deck crew knows the right places to land and park the aircraft without affecting the rest of the flight cycle.
Miller said the ship needed to do a little more work to complete its integration with the V-22, including ensuring it can perform certain alternate missions as well as the C-2A could.
A recent exercise involved using the CMV-22B as a medical evacuation platform, to make sure they didn’t need to make any alterations to the aircraft, the gear or the process of getting an injured sailor on a stretcher onto the aircraft to be flown ashore.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said in a House Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing today that the Navy was ramping up to a 50-50 mix of F-35C’s and F/A-18E-F Super Hornets in its air wings, and that “our goal is to have six aviation wings out of 10 that have the F-35 capability by 2025.
Going into F-35C acquisition and fielding, a key concern was the fact that the Joint Strike Fighter is a single-engine plane.
The engine has proven quite reliable – in fact, during testing aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), an F-35C engine ingested debris from the basket of the Super Hornet that was refueling it mid-air, and the F-35C made it back to Lincoln’s deck safely.
Still, the single engine is large – too large to be transported via a C-2A, which is why the V-22 was chosen to replace is for the COD mission – and many worried whether the Navy would be able to sustain the jets at sea if moving the engine around was so difficult.
The Vinson CSG says those fears can be put to rest: they not only conducted a V-22 movement of the F-35 power module, the main component of the engine, but they also demonstrated two other ways of lifting the power module to the carrier from a Military Sealift Command supply ship nearby.
US Navy Organization / ABC Flash Point Military News 2021.