Boeing Exec Predicts First International V-22 Osprey Sale Next Year
By Stew Magnuson
The Boeing Co. is anticipating opening up new international markets next year for both its CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopter and the V-22 Osprey, a senior company executive said Oct. 24.
“I firmly believe we will have our first international sale sometime in 2013, or no later than the first quarter of 2014,” Mark Ballew, Boeing’s director of business development for mobility rotorcraft, said of the tilt-rotor Osprey it produces in partnership with Bell Helicopter.
He would not reveal the name of the first international customer, but added that there were in-depth discussions with a handful of other countries interested in the aircraft as well.
“It is more than, ‘Here is a V-22 and what it does.’ It’s, ‘What are the delivery dates? What would be the supportability concepts?” he told National Defense on the sidelines of the Association of the United States Army annual conference in Washington, D.C.
Further, there are three new countries close to signing contracts with Boeing for its recently upgraded F-model Chinooks. “We think we will have two, if not three contracts next year.”
Boeing already sells the dual-rotor aircraft, which has been in production since the early 1960s, to nine nations. It is currently delivering a variant to Canada. Italy and the Netherlands also recently put in orders. One of the new nations may be India, which is looking to buy either Chinooks or Russia’ s MI-26. Ballew expects India to decide by the end of the year, and for negotiations on a 15-aircraft contract to begin shortly thereafter.
Meanwhile, Boeing is waiting for the U.S. budget process to get resolved in order to move forward with multi-year contracts on both the Chinook and Osprey. For the Army's CH-47F, the contract would be for 155 aircraft with options for 60 more for foreign military sales that would keep the production line going until about 2020. For the Osprey, the Marine Corps is looking to purchase 91, with an additional seven for Air Force Special Operations Command.
Multi-year contracts allow for lower purchase prices by making the long lead time for materials and components more predictable, and give Boeing the ability to buy materials in bulk. However, they do lock the military into contracts that cannot be adjusted during austere times.
“We are all striving to get this multi-year award. There has been nobody [in the Army] who says, ‘no we don’t want the multi-year award.’” Boeing hopes the contract is awarded as soon as the budget is authorized. It is looking to international contracts to offset the risk that it is pushed back to April or May if there is an impasse in Congress.
“Our goal is to be able to sustain our current level of work, not to have to lay anybody off,” Ballew said.
Photo Credit: Defense Department