Bell-Boeing Expecting at Least Two International Orders for V-22 Osprey in 2015
By Valerie Insinna
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Bell-Boeing’s V-22 Osprey tiltrotor has yet to land an international contract, but company executives are betting that they will have two foreign customers in hand by the end of the year.
"There's nothing that's turned into an [letter of offer and acceptance] yet, but we're working on that,” said Vince Tobin, one of the Bell-Boeing V-22 program directors, in reference to a formal offer made to a company in the foreign military sales process. He expects to sign two LOAs in 2015.
Japan’s ministry of defense announced the purchase 17 Ospreys last year, although there is no contract set in stone yet, he said during a Feb. 23 interview at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX). Israel had plans to buy the tiltrotor, but that deal remains in flux due to budget constraints.
Additionally, the platform has received significant interest from countries in the Middle East and the companies are pursuing those opportunities, he said.
Breaking into the export market would be one of several high points this year for the Bell-Boeing partnership, which has struggled to find sales for the Osprey outside of the Marine Corps and special operations communities. That changed when the Navy in their fiscal 2016 budget disclosed plans to buy 44 aircraft for what the service calls carrier onboard delivery — that is, flying people, supplies and cargo on and off flattops.
The Navy’s Ospreys will probably be slightly different than those flown by the Marine Corps and special operators, although the companies have not heard from the service what its requirements are, Tobin said.
“Our assumption is that longer unrefueled range is always something that customers are interested in, especially for the Navy application for carrier on deck delivery,” he said. “We’re always looking for better ways to integrate radios.”
Northrop Grumman’s C-2 Greyhound has filled the carrier onboard delivery role since 1966. During the heated battle against Bell-Boeing, Northrop proposed modernizing the C-2’s wings, engine and avionics, which executives claimed would be at least two times less expensive than buying a new aircraft. Bell-Boeing asserted that the Osprey would be more cost-effective over the long haul.
According to the budget, the Navy plans to procure 22 V-22s in fiscal years 2018 through 2020. That will likely result in another five-year multiyear contract for Ospreys to be signed before the current one ends in September of calendar year 2018, Tobin said. He predicts the Navy will release a request for proposals to Bell-Boeing in spring or summer and a contract being signed by the end of 2017.