In service since the late 1980s, the tiltrotor aircraft is one of the strangest, yet most impressive sights in our skies. Two Rolls-Royce Liberty engines housed in (you guessed it) nacelles spin large propellers in either a horizontal or vertical orientation, depending on the needs of the moment.
Those nacelles are the most impressive bits, visually speaking, of a machine that otherwise looks like an unassuming helicopter, but also the most important elements of the aircraft. And given the Osprey’s age, some improvements to the nacelles were in order.
In December last year, the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) awarded the company behind the tiltrotor, Bell Boeing, an $81 million contract to make improvements of the said nacelles to the Air Force’s version of the aircraft, the CV-22. This week, the first one was delivered to the Amarillo Assembly Center, where work is already underway.
The company does not say, obviously, what changes will be made to the aircraft, but does reveal it has "engineered more than 1,300 new V-22 part numbers to help improve reliability and maintainability.”
The modifications, which are expected to be conducted over the next four years to cover the entire fleet, should also make the Ospreys easier to maintain.
The upgrades to the USAF machines will be made using the expertise gained with the Marine Corps version, the MV-22, an example of which already flew with modified nacelles earlier this year.