MV-22 Squadron Starts Turret Tests

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By Amy Butler and Douglas Barrie

The U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 squadron preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in the third or fourth quarter of this year is now flight testing a turreted gun to beef-up the aircraft’s fire-power.

The Bell/Boeing MV-22 unit is likely to be deployed to Camp Bastion in the Helmand region as part of the U.S.’s ramp-up of forces in the country. The BAE Systems turret uses a GAU-17, 7.62mm cal. mini-gun in the belly or “hell hole” of the tiltrotor aircraft.

USMC Lt. Gen. George J. Trautman III, deputy commandant for aviation, says some “basic” testing work is now being carried out by the squadron, and that next month will see full operational tests. Trautman is “fairly confident we’ll meet the fall objective.”

Along with the turreted gun, the USMC is also qualifying a 50-cal. weapon for the ramp station. The MV-22 now includes an optional M240 on the ramp. Air Force Special Operations forces are now training to use the 50-cal. gun on their CV-22 fleet because it provides superior coverage for the back of the aircraft.

The MV-22 will, says Trautman, help support dispersed force operations, providing troop and cargo transport, as well as medical evacuation.

Trautman says he hopes to improve the 62% mission capable rate of the aircraft supporting operations in Iraq. However, one contributing factor to that mission capable rate is that nearly one-third of the fleet are MV-22A models, which lack some of the reliability qualities designed into the B version. “We accept that and we realize that,” he says, noting the MV-22s were deployed to Iraq sooner in its maturity than most systems would have been sent abroad.

Trautman is also monitoring problems with recently delivered UH-1N and AH-1Z aircraft delivered to the Navy/Marine Corps from Bell. Bad parts from a subvendor caused problems with the transmission in these aircraft. Fixes are underway, and by mid-July, these helicopters will be back in service, he says.

The USMC is also planning to deploy the new Hueys to the Afghan theater later this year. Operational testing of the AH-1Z is expected to finish next year, Trautman says.

Photo: USAF

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