India interested in Acquiring V-22 Osprey for Special Operation
Does India need the V-22 Osprey? Need. That often powerless little word in the world of military modernisation globally — and certainly in India. Far more powerful impulses edge out straitlaced motivations like actual need in militaries. For instance, diplomatic necessity. Or, as a bite-the-bullet bridge to something bigger. Or, simply, want. So let’s re-frame that question: does India want the V-22 Osprey in any form? Well, here’s the thing. It’s complicated. And Livefist has some exclusive new information indicative of a structured plan Boeing is looking to pursue towards actually landing a deal for the Osprey in India.
India first solicited interest in the V-22 at the start of this decade in late 2010. First and second level of detail presentations were promptly made to the Indian Air Force. In 2012, Boeing confirmed that preliminary discussions were under way and that they saw a good deal of interest from India:
In 2013, the Indian Navy joined the conversation, throwing a glance at the V-22 and thinking of it for the carrier logistics and re-supply role. The navy dialed the US Navy asking for price and availability data on the Osprey platform. In 2015, reports emerged that the Indian military (presumably the Indian Air Force) was interested in procuring six V-22s for ‘rapid troop insertion in border areas’.
Aircraft designers had long dreamt of creating an aircraft that can fly long distances at high speeds, carrying heavy loads and at the same time, take-off, hover and land like a helicopter. Designed, developed and manufactured jointly by American companies Bell Helicopter and Boeing Rotorcraft Systems under Boeing Defense, Space and Security, the V-22 Osprey is one such machine. The rotors of the aircraft are folded and wings rotated for storage on an aircraft carrier.
The Osprey was the first aircraft of its kind to enter serial production. It was designed to seamlessly convert from helicopter to airplane mode and vice versa. The composite photo shown below illustrates how this conversion occurs in mid-air. The 3 blade propellers act as rotors as well and are designated as proprotors. It’s airframe and proprotor make extensive use of composites to reduce weight and increase strength.
The Osprey has a cruise speed of 450 km/hr and a maximum speed of 565 km/hr, though a higher speed is possible, it is restricted by safety limits.
It can carry an internal payload of 9,000 kg or an external payload of 6,800 kg. A specifically designed 4×4 vehicle called Growler is carried inside as existing vehicles cannot fit inside the Osprey.
It has a crew of 4 and can carry 24 troops in the regular seated configuration and a maximum of 32 in maximum density configuration.
The un-refueled combat radius is 720 km and it has a ferry range of 3600 km with auxiliary internal fuel tanks and no mission payload.
This helicopter has been a game changer for the US Marines as it offers them exceptionally fast aircraft which can be deployed from US Navy aircraft carriers, Amphibious assault ships, Landing Platform Docks and Independence class LCS which can be valuable while carrying out special forces operations. It is also easy to store on board a ship as you can see in the photograph below. The wings and the rotors completely tilt to allow compact storage.
Indian Armed Forces Interest in Buying V-22 Ospreys
Indian Army which had dispatched few Helicopters from its Aviation arm to carry out rescue effort in quake hit Nepal this year, also observed operational capability of four tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys which were dispatched by US Military for Rescue effort and belonged to Squadron 262 of US Marine Corps which are based out of Okinawa in Japan.
Part propeller plane, part helicopter V-22 Osprey flew in challenging and hostile Himalayan range and was a constant challenge to Pilots flying at that altitude. MV-22 Ospreys while in Nepal flew also flew to a border town in the eastern India. the whole operation was conducted in coordination with Indian Army was to transport urgent relief materials.
Osprey which is significantly faster than a helicopter, and can carry bigger payload might have left some good impression on Indian Army. Recently Indian Army as requested technical briefing on V-22 Osprey from Bell-Boeing but efforts have been made to hold such briefings
Bell-Boeing likely will pitch V-22 Osprey for Special operations forces and will highlight tilt-rotor aircraft’s ability in executing long-range infiltration, exfiltration and in resupply missions or for Humanitarian efforts.
The Indian Navy has been known for a while to want a variety of carrier-launched capabilities, chiefly logistics & resupply, but also carrier-launched airborne early warning and anti-submarine warfare. Boeing’s Lemaster confirms the programme has been lately looking at early warning radars and other kit that could convert the Osprey into an AEW/ASW/ASuW platform — part of what the U.S. Marine Corps wants for the aircraft anyway.
Currently Indian Navy is only exploring the operational capability of the aircraft and how it could meet its needs for carrier-borne operations from future Indigenous aircraft carriers and have not made decision regarding it yet.