V-22 backers don’t see this as a problem, though, and are not currently planning to offer a pressurized cabin. “The V-22’s 25,000-ft. service ceiling is similar to other turbo-prop aircraft. Passenger flight operations are routinely conducted in the 8,000- to 12,000-ft. mid-altitude ranges where the aircraft operates most efficiently,” says Bill Schroeder, a Bell-Boeing spokesman. “Unpressurized Navy passenger flights are cleared up to 13,000 ft.” He adds that the Block C weather radar, ice protection system and avionics support flying in all-weather/day/night conditions and air conditioning can be used on long flights for passenger comfort.
The V-22 aircraft is capable of operating on the decks of smaller ships (though some certifications remain), allowing for cargo to be directly delivered to them from ashore. Using the C-2, the Navy employs a hub-and-spoke system whereby cargo is shipped to large deck carriers and then hauled by helicopter to smaller ships in the carrier group.
V-22 proponents say that direct delivery of personnel and cargo could garner savings compared to the current operational concept.
Both contractors say that parts and service would be relatively inexpensive, owing to the presence of like aircraft in the fleet. However, neither company has provided concrete cost data for public consumption.
Moran says the Navy has completed an analysis of alternatives to review options for the mission. The COD aircraft in service now are suitable until the late 2020s unless an unforeseen problem crops up, he says.