Here's a great pic of the first MV-22 Osprey destined for HMX-1, the Marine helicopter squadron that operates the fleet of Marine One presidential choppers. As you can see, this MV-22 already has presidential green painted on the tail and engine nacelle. The tilt-rotor has freshly arrived at Bell Helicopter's Amarillo, TX, plant from Boeing's factory in Philadelphia, where the Ospreys' fuselages are made. Once in Texas, they receive their wings, engine nacelles, and tail assemblies. (If you look closely, you'll notice that the tail of this aircraft hasn't actually been joined onto the fuselage.)
It's been known since 2011 that the famous squadron is set to receive 14 MV-22s complete with the deep green paint scheme to replace its CH-53E Super Stallions that are being sent back out into the combat fleet.
The MV-22s will be part of HMX-1's fleet of "green tops," meaning they are used to haul gear, support staff, and the press corps for presidential trips. The fleet of VH-60 and iconic VH-3D "white tops" -- called so because of the white paint jobs on the tops of their fuselages -- serve as the actual Marine One choppers.
However, the squadron's MV-22s are being equipped with removable VIP kits that hide the industrial interiors of cargo aircraft as well as covers for the seats that line the cabin walls and floor carpeting complete with "welcome aboard" written on the aft cargo ramps.
One has to wonder how this will impact the recently renewed contest, dubbed VXX, aimed at replacing the fleet of 1970s-vintage VH-3Ds. Boeing is said to be considering offering a VIP version of the V-22 for the contest along with its Chinook, while Northrop Grumman is teaming with AgustaWestland (Boeing had a tentative teaming agreement with AW two years years ago but didn't pursue it for the current contest) to offer a version of the European-made EH101, (the chopper that won the original VXX effort that was cancelled by then Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2009 after its costs ballooned). Lockheed is teaming with Sikorsky to offer the a version of the S-92 Superhawk. It's worth noting that the Navy's presolicitation notice for VXX asks contractors for info on how easily their VIP transports can fit inside a C-17 cargo jet -- something that's very difficult for an Osprey to do.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said in September that replacing the ancient VH-3Ds is a priority for the Navy and Marine Corps. The original $6 billion VXX contract went to a Lockheed Martin-AgustaWestland team in 2005 to build the VIP version of the EH101, dubbed the VH-71. That program was cancelled after constant design changes to the helicopter caused the cost to spike to $13 billion by 2009. That cancellation left nine expensive VH-71s sitting on a ramp at a Navy base in Maryland only to see them sold to Canada as spare parts hulks for pennies on the dollar.
While the V-22 might be good for combat and/or prepared airfields, the downwash created by the tilt-rotor's engines would likely wreak havoc on the White House grounds. Need proof? Click here and here to see what happened when the Marines landed an Osprey in a Staten Island, NY, park during Fleet Week a couple of years ago. Good thing no one was seriously injured. (Some would argue that careful piloting over the South Lawn would keep the nasty downwash to a minimum.)
An earlier version of this story said that Boeing was still teamed with AgustaWestland on the VXX. Killer Apps regrets the error.
John Reed reports on the frontiers of cyber war and the latest in military technology for Killer Apps.