August 31, 2012:
For the last three years the U.S. Navy has been searching for a new COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) aircraft. It is now using 34 aging C-2s (cargo versions of the E-2 radar aircraft, in effect, C-2 is an E-2 without the saucer like radar container above the fuselage and all the electronics inside the fuselage). The C-2 can carry 4.5 tons of cargo (or 26 passengers), per sortie, to or from a carrier. Cruise speed is 460 kilometers an hour and range is over 800 kilometers. The current C-2s are over two decades old and are being refurbished so they can go for another decade. But after that, new aircraft will be needed.
At one point the navy was going to buy 48 V-22 tilt rotor aircraft, but these aircraft cost over $70 million each. At the moment it’s a lot cheaper to keep refurbishing the elderly C-2s. Because the C-2s will eventually wear out, the V-22 is still considered a candidate for replacing the C-2. Both aircraft weigh the same (about 25 tons). The U.S. Marine Corps MV-22s can carry 24 troops 700 kilometers (vertical take-off on a ship, level flight, landing, and return) at 400 kilometers an hour. As a COD aircraft, the V-22 would be similar to the C-2. That means a slightly slower (445 kilometers an hour) cruise speed, and the V-22 is more expensive to maintain, but can land on carriers more easily (as a helicopter) and can carry loads of up to 4.5 tons slung underneath. This enables the COD to deliver outsize objects (replacement components or structures for the ship, or aircraft parts that would not fit inside a C-2 or V-22). There are other benefits, as a V-22 recently demonstrated its ability to take a casualty off a surfaced nuclear submarine. There is not much demand for this sort of thing, but when there is, it's a matter of life and death.
The V-22 is the first application of the tilt-rotor technology in active service. The air force is already working on improvements to make the V-22 more reliable and easier to maintain. The V-22 gives the marines (who have about a hundred) and SOCOM (about 15) a lot more capability but, as is often the case, this is a lot more expensive. The initial production models of the CV-22 cost over $70 million each. SOCOM insists on a high degree of reliability for its aircraft. Thus the navy could get a cheaper replacement for the C-2 if it bought something similar to the C-2. Not a big savings because taking a commercial aircraft and "navelizing" it for carrier operations is expensive. So the V-22 is still a contender for COD job.