GLOBAL DEFENSE MARKET
Bell-Boeing Cinches V-22 Contract with Japan
The contract marked the first international sale of the aircraft through the U.S. government’s foreign military sales program, said Vince Tobin, vice president and program director for the V-22 program at Bell Helicopter.
“We’re very excited, [and] very thrilled that we have our first international customer,” he told National Defense. “It was not necessarily a surprise, but it’s great to have it actually in writing and moving out.”
The V-22, a fixed-wing helicopter hybrid, will enhance Japan’s ground self-defense force capabilities, while providing an ideal platform for relief efforts in response to natural disasters, Tobin said.
Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at the Teal Group, a Fairfax, Virginia-based defense and aerospace analysis firm, said the aircraft would give Japan more power projection and regional influence in an area where many countries, like China, may pose a threat.
“Japan is primarily a defensive nation and will use these systems to secure its vital interests and national territory,” he added.
The aircraft will be slightly modified to fit Japan’s specified requests, including a specialized radio system and other “minor engineering changes” to tailor the platform, Tobin said.
The V-22 has the ability to take off and land vertically while transporting troops and cargo over long distances. It provides speed, range and other capabilities beyond those of a helicopter, he noted.
“It’s really the only aircraft in the world that does that and it’s only my assumption that they [Japan] needed that capability,” he said.
Bell-Boeing plans to provide the island nation with 17 of the aircraft, however the first five are the only ones on contract, Tobin said. The delivery of the remaining 12 depends on future budgeting, he said.
Bell-Boeing hopes that this first sale will make the V-22 a more attractive candidate for other nation’s aircraft competitions, he said. “Our expectation is that this is the first of many more countries that will be coming to procure the aircraft,” he said.