When the Marine Corps developed the V-22 Osprey in the 1980s, the vision was pretty simple: fly troops ashore in amphibious assaults launched from beyond the range of anti-ship missiles. Now they’re turning the Osprey into a gas station. The Marines clearly envision the tiltrotor as a sort of flying Swiss Army knife.One clear example is yesterday evening’s $58.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract award to the Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office to keep developing the V-22 Aerial Refueling System, aka VARS. The VARS includes a portable refueling station that will roll up the Osprey’s back ramp and into its back cabin. Crews will use it to aerial refuel F-35s, F/A18 Hornets and other aircraft – including V-22s and CH-53 helicopters – by extending a hose and drogue out the open back ramp.“This is a long desired capability for V-22,” an industry official following the program said. “You talk about force multipliers — that’s what this is.”
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