British Firm Tapped to Build V-22 Refueling Pallet

An MV-22B Osprey with 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) takes off from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) on Nov 8, 2016, in the Red Sea. The British defense contractor Cobham Plc was recently awarded a contract to develop a refueling pallet for the tilt-rotor aircraft. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/John A. Hamilton Jr.)An MV-22B Osprey with 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) takes off from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) on Nov 8, 2016, in the Red Sea. The British defense contractor Cobham Plc was recently awarded a contract to develop a refueling pallet for the tilt-rotor aircraft. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/John A. Hamilton Jr.)

A British defense firm has been tapped to develop a refueling pallet for the Marine Corps’ MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft made by Boeing Co. and Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter unit.

Cobham Plc, based in Dorset, England, recently landed a contract from the service to develop the V-22 Aerial Refueling System, or VARS, according to a company announcement. The potential value of the deal wasn’t specified.

The hose-and-drogue technology is a modified version of the company’s existing FR300 Hose Drum Unit that can be rolled on and off the aircraft on a standardized pallet, according to the statement.

The system, to be manufactured at the company’s plant in Davenport, Iowa, will allow the Osprey to refuel the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, a stealth fifth-generation fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp., and the F/A-18 Hornet, a fourth-generation fighter made by Boeing Co., according to Cobham.

“With VARS we continue the tradition of providing industry leading aerial refueling capability to war fighters,” Kevin McKeown, vice president and general manager of Cobham Mission Systems, said in a statement. “This program will enable the Marines to extend the flying range of their fighter aircraft and allow for efficient shipboard operations.”

The contract for the refueling pallet comes as the military is looking at ways to reduce sustainment costs for the MV-22 — and just months after the first Osprey with 3-D printed parts took flight.

An MV-22 equipped with a titanium link and fitting inside an engine nacelle performed a hover during a July 29 demonstration at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. The historic test may pave the way for eventually helping to develop replacement parts in faster time and at less cost, officials have said.

“That’s where the Rosetta Stone is going to be,” Rear Adm. (Sel.) Francis Morley, vice commander of Naval Air Systems Command, said earlier this year at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space conference outside Washington, D.C., according to a previous article on our Military.com sister blog DoDBuzz by my colleague, Hope Hodge Seck.

“If we can start manufacturing flight-critical components, now you’re talking sustainment costs and speed and time; we have some really great opportunities to accelerate,” he added.

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Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.