The haulers are being fitted with armor plating, and could even be see forward-facing weaponry installed, following an incident in South Sudan back in December. Two airmen were critically injured after 119 small-arms rounds penetrated the plane's fuselage.
The new armor plating can be installed in customizable segments, allowing flight crews to prioritize certain sections of an aircraft. With its maximum armor complement, the CV-22s will add 800 pounds of body fat, Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold told Air Force Times, negatively affecting payload and limiting the range of the planes, hence the sectioned approach.
As for the firepower, numerous options are being considered.
"We've been challenged on this since the inception of this airplane," Lt. Gen. Heithold told AFT. "We're looking at various solutions that will be simple – not exquisite – solutions that fire forward so that I can keep heads down" when the plane is most vulnerable, during landings.
Affordability is a particularly important factor for AFSOC, as it will need to outfit any weapons on all 50 of its CV-22s.
"If you've got a $1 million widget you want to put on the Osprey – 50 of them. We can't afford a $50 million program," Heithold said. "But if you've got a $100,000 or a $50,000 widget that can improve the sustainment, capability or ops of the aircraft, then bring that to us."