The U.S. Navy has decided, after more than five years of deliberation, to adopt the V-22 tilt rotor aircraft as its new COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) aircraft. The plan is to initially buy four a year from 2018 to 2012, and see how that works out before buying another 20 or so.
As the U.S. Navy adopts the V-22 for COD missions it is likely that Britain and France might also adopt the V-22 for these missions. The only serious competitor for the COD contract was a proposal for an upgraded C-2. The C-2 and E-2 radar aircraft (but not the retired S-2 anti-submarine aircraft) were based on the same airframe. The E-2 has undergone several major upgrades and some of that tech was proposed for the new “C-2C”. There was a version of the S-2 used for COD but they are long gone.
The navy is currently using 35 elderly C-2As for COD. 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 date from the 1980s, and have recently been refurbished so they can keep at it until the early 2020s. Thus the navy was expected to make a decision soon or face a COD crisis.
Both V-22 and C-2 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 is similar as 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 carrier 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.)
In 2011 the French Navy leased two U.S. Navy C-2A COD aircraft. This was a temporary solution to their need to deliver air cargo to their nuclear carrier (Charles de Gaulle) while the ship was heavily engaged supporting air operations over Libya. France has long used the similar E-2 radar aircraft, from which the C-2 was developed. But now Britain is building two carriers even larger than the de Gaulle and that means they are more likely to require a larger COD aircraft like the C-2 or V-22. In the past the British and French (and other nations with carriers) would improvise for COD, often taking a carrier based bomber aircraft to move freight. If close enough to land the helicopters every carrier embarked would be used.