As of 1 Nov 99
     By Gidge Dady
V-22 Public Affairs
        Naval Air Station PATUXENT RIVER, MD – Its revolutionary technology has placed the MV-22 Osprey in a class by itself.  Now in initial production, the tiltrotor aircraft, which has undergone extensive testing here, has entered a critical test period that will evaluate its suitability and effectiveness for operational use.  While the verdict is still out about the grade the Osprey will receive after its “final exam,” officials in the V-22 program office believe that if it performs as well during Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) as it did during Engineering and Manufacturing, Development, it should pass with flying colors.
         The MV-22’s OPEVAL began this month and through the spring of 2000, the Multi-Service Operational Test Team (MOTT), comprised of Marine and Air Force pilots, aircrew, maintenance personnel, operations analysts and flight engineers, will be evaluating the MV-22’s readiness to join the fleet.  This squadron of independent testers will use the first four low rate initial production aircraft for about 700 flight hours during 350 sorties to conduct extensive operationally representative missions from air capable ships, airfields, remote sites, confined areas and major range and test facilities.
         The locations that will host the V-22 OPEVAL include the Marine Corps Air Stations in North Carolina and Arizona, Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, California, and air capable ships located on each coast. According to Lt.Col. Jim Shaffer, deputy director for the MOTT, these
Operational Evaluation/V-22 sites were chosen because they have diverse climates, altitudes, and have supporting assets that will allow the MOTT to evaluate how the MV-22 interoperates with other platforms to include the CH-46, CH-53, the F-18, AV-8, and Marine and Air Force tankers.
         The MOTT will begin conducting one of its most intensive evaluation periods in November at MCAS New River, NC.  During this phase, the MOTT will conduct land and shipboard operations to include launching mock amphibious assault missions with Marines moving from ship to shore.  Part of this will include over-water operations, night vision goggle tests, low level navigation, external loads lifting on single and dual hooks, and inflight refueling with a C-130 tanker.
         Early next year, the MOTT will conduct survivability tests on the range at China Lake and continue with additional shipboard testing. Other tests will include fast roping, hoist operations, and flying multi-aircraft formations from ship to land to evaluate the effectiveness of the troop assault mission.
         While this evaluation is for the Marine MV-22, portions of the Special Operations Force (SOF) mission will be assessed.  Since the CV-22 Air Force variant, although not yet in production, is 90 percent common with the MV-22, the MOTT will use this evaluation period to assess areas that are specific to the SOF. They will use Hurlburt Field to test the Osprey’s interoperability with special operations personnel and its compatibility with airfield assets, resources and special equipment.
 “At each of these sites, the Osprey will be evaluated on many levels. People tend to place emphasis on what the pilots think about how the aircraft handles and performs its mission, but we also have to evaluate how reliable and maintainable it is, how often it need repairs and how long the repairs take,” said Shaffer.
         The Osprey’s performance will be graded against established requirements for this evaluation period.  Each time a pilot conducts a flight or a maintainer makes a repair, for example, they must grade the mission or task. This is done via the V-22 Questionnaire Tool (VQT), a computer based program that will be used to collect a wide spectrum of operational data. This tool was designed to produce different types of questionnaires that are tailored to specific events according to Capt. Mac Blythe, a MOTT operations analyst who helped design the VQT.  “The pilots and enlisted crewmembers will answer questions about how effective the V-22 was in performing a particular event. Likewise, maintainers will evaluate maintenance actions they complete. In addition to these questionnaires, evaluators periodically have to answer more in-depth questions about human factors, safety, training and operational and maintenance issues,” said Blythe.
        While the data collected through the VQT is more subjective, Blythe said they would be able to capture objective data through avionics data bus recorders and visual/audio recording packages onboard the aircraft. These three sources will provide the primary means of measuring the Osprey’s performance.
        After OPEVAL is completed and the data is gathered, the MOTT will prepare a report with an evaluation of the MV-22’s suitability and effectiveness for operational use. The Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force and the Commander, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center will review the report and make a decision about whether the MV-22 successfully completed OPEVAL.    Successful completion is required to support the full rate production decision scheduled for FY-01. Plans call for the Marine Corps to purchase 350 MV-22s and the Air Force to buy 50 CV-22s.