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Bell-Boeing Eyes New V-22 Contracts with Japan
Photo: Defense Dept.
PARIS — Bell Helicopter and the Boeing Co. are looking to build on the success the partnership has had selling the V-22 Osprey to Japan, a Bell executive said June 20 at the Paris Air Show.
“The V-22 is the most versatile, marinized, vertical-lift [aircraft] available today,” said Richard Thornley, managing director for Japan at Bell Helicopter. The tilt-rotor aircraft already has been selected by the U.S. Navy for its carrier-onboard delivery mission and Bell-Boeing has 44 systems pending a contract, he said. Those contracts are expected to be finalized this year.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has similar requirements, he added. It will need to replace between 15 and 25 of its maritime delivery helicopters, he said. Japan could get more bang for its buck if it went with a V-22 instead of a traditional helicopter, he added.
“With a V-22 Osprey, the productivity is much higher because it can fly with twice the speed, twice the range and twice the payload than a conventional helicopter,” he said. “Therefore we believe that if the V-22 is selected, less units would be needed."
The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force — its army— purchased the nation's first 17 V-22s, Thornley said during a briefing at the show, which is being held at Le Bourget Airport. The nation was the first international customer for the aircraft. It’s unlikely that a new acquisition would affect the price of the Japanese army’s V-22s, but it could potentially reduce the cost for the country’s navy, said Richard Harris, vice president of international military sales at Bell’s global military business. Those details would have to be negotiated by the United States through a foreign military sale, he added.
There are a number of opportunities for the V-22 in the Asia-Pacific region, Harris said.
“One of the things that's happening in the Asia-Pacific region — especially since the U.S. military and government has made that Asia push — is we’ve seen a lot of interaction between our forces and our allies,” he said. “They’ve seen the value of the V-22 as a tilt-rotor that they don’t currently possess.”
Many countries in the region are looking at the V-22 and are in dialogue with the U.S. government about purchasing them, Harris said. He declined to name specific countries.
Thornley noted that Subaru was recently selected as the maintainer of U.S. V-22 Ospreys in the region, and it is expected that the company will also maintain the Japanese V-22s when they enter service.
Now “any Asian country can benefit from that in the future and so can Japan,” he said. “To have the local support is always a good thing.”
Also of particular interest to Bell is the Japanese army’s AH-X requirement, an effort to replace the country’s aging attack helicopters. The company plans to offer its AH-1Z aircraft, Thornley said.
The system is the “most advanced marinized attack helicopter designed for shipborne, amphibious operations,” he said. The AH-12 has been tested in typhoon-type conditions, he added.
Japan may seek to acquire more than 60 platforms, Thornley said. The Japan Self-Defense Forces tend to start off with small quantities, he noted.