THE F-35 HAS BEEN CRITICIZED FOR ITS SHORT RANGE, BUT THE MARINES HAVE A PLAN: The U.S. Military’s V-22 Osprey.
Bell-Boeing is continuing its work to develop a roll-on/roll-off aerial refueling tanker capability for the company’s MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor at the behest of the U.S. Marine Corps. If all goes well, the Marines should have an organic aerial refueling capability for their expeditionary strike groups operational by the 2019-2020 timeframe.
The service wants the tanker capability for its fleet of Osprey so that the tilt-rotors would be able to extend the range of the Marines’ F-35B Joint Strike Fighters—which is becoming an increasingly important factor in the Pacific theatre. Dubbed, the VARS—V-22 Aerial Refueling System—the idea is for the Ospreys to top-off the F-35Bs as they takeoff from a large-deck amphibious assault ship with a full load of weapons but not fuel. The Ospreys would also be able to refuel the jets as they return—acting as a recovery tanker.
I was an early critic of the Osprey, but it keeps proving its worth in new and unexpected ways.