The Air Force's oldest CV-22 Osprey made its final test sortie from the flightline at Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Oct. 31. The CV-22 will be placed on display at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, museum later this year. (Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin/Air Force)
The first of the Air Force’s Ospreys, one of the newest members of the Air Force’s fleet, is already heading to a museum.
The CV-22, tail number 21, was delivered to the Air Force in 1999 and has logged 1,400 flight hours testing new equipment for special operators. It is heading to the National Museum of the Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
“It’s a great bird,” said Lt. Col. Darrin Hoenle, commander of the 413th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., where the Osprey was assigned. “It had one of the highest launch-reliability rates in the Air Force.”
But despite its reliability, the Osprey will retire because it does not fit with the rest of the Air Force’s fleet.
Tail number 21 began as an MV-22 assigned to the Marine Corps, Hoenle said. It was converted to a CV-22 configuration in 2003 to become the main test Osprey for the Air Force. Originally assigned to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., it conducted 400 hours of initial testing before being assigned to Eglin.
The Air Force’s version of the Osprey is specifically outfitted for special operations, including upgraded systems such as a terrain-following radar and new communications suites. The Air Force used the airframe to test new systems specifically for their CV-22s, such as new radars and new weapons integration.
However, since this aircraft was a pre-production model originally for the Marines, it was not identical to the new CV-22s assigned to the Air Force.
“It was divergent from the rest of the fleet,” Hoenle said. “U.S. Special Operations command and Air Force Special Operations Command decided to no longer fund that particular airframe.”
That version of the Osprey has engine coverings and specific parts that have to be fabricated when needed because they are no longer in production, Hoenle said.
The 413th FLTS is borrowing an operational CV-22 from Air Force Special Operations Command for testing, while tail number 21 fulfills a last mission at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.
The Air Force flies 35 Ospreys, and expects to field a fleet of 50 by 2016. In fiscal 2013, the fleet flew a mission-capable rate of 61.3 percent.