Boeing Aiming to Extend V-22 Deliveries Through 2024
Boeing is currently negotiating a third multiyear contract with the Defense Department that would extend deliveries of the V-22 Osprey to 2024, a company executive said March 22.
"We're looking forward to a Multiyear 3 contract that would be awarded in December of '17," said Rick Lemaster, director of V-22 tilt-rotor global sales and marketing for vertical lift programs at Boeing. "That would be for a five-year period, essentially FY18 through FY22, and then the deliveries would go on out through 2024."
In 2008 the Naval Air Systems Command awarded the first multiyear procurement contract to Bell Boeing, covering V-22 purchases from 2008-2012. In 2013, the Navy signed a second multiyear contract for production of the tilt-rotor aircraft, which is jointly manufactured by Boeing and Bell Helicopter. That contract authorized the purchase of 99 V-22s from 2013 through 2017 — 92 MV-22s going to the Marine Corps and seven CV-22s going to Air Force special operations forces. It also included an option for up to 23 additional aircraft. The multiyear resulted in a total cost savings of about $1 billion, according to Boeing.
Over the summer Boeing will work with both the Navy and the Marine Corps to discuss the quantities that the services would purchase as part of a five-year production buy, he told National Defense at the Boeing facility in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, where the fuselage for the V-22 is built.
The company is hoping to reach quantities and cost savings similar to what was achieved through the second multiyear contract, which would enable Boeing to produce aircraft at the current rate of about 19 to 20 per year.
To meet that production rate, Boeing is looking at both new domestic and international opportunities — in addition to what the Navy and Marine Corps plan to purchase — to fill the gap, Lemaster said.
"We've got our work cut out for us in the first couple of years because the quantities are down," he said, referring to the slight reduction in procurement numbers that were reflected in the president's 2017 budget request over the future years defense program from fiscal year 2017 through fiscal year 2021.
Based on the budget request, the Marine Corps will purchase 16 aircraft in fiscal year 2017, two less than was originally planned in the FYDP, and the Navy, which was planning to purchase eight aircraft per year from fiscal year 2018 to fiscal year 2021, is now expected to purchase six a year.
The Navy is procuring the V-22 to replace the service's aging C-2A Greyhound turboprop aircraft for its carrier onboard delivery missions. It had originally been reported that the Navy's V-22 variant would have the designation, HV-22, but Lemaster said that has since been changed to CMV-22.
Though the president's budget reflects some slight reductions early on, both the Marine Corps and Navy are expected to purchase the full amount of V-22s that are in their respective programs of record, he said. The Marine Corps has a requirement of 360 and the Navy has a requirement of 44 for the COD mission.
Foreign military sales are one way that the company is looking to reach its quantity objectives for Multiyear 3, Lemaster said.
In May, the U.S. State Department approved a potential $3 billion sale to Japan for up to 17 V-22 Ospreys. As of last summer, five of those aircraft were placed under contract, Lemaster said. Boeing is hoping that Japan will choose to purchase more of those aircraft in Multiyear 3.
"We're also hopeful that we'll get other international customers to be able to come in and make a commitment and become part of that buy," he said.
Israel is one potential customer. In December 2014, the country was close to signing a letter of offer and acceptance, but chose to put its V-22 purchase on ice. However, discussions between the United States and Israel have been renewed over the last several months, Lemaster said. "That whole process is tied up very much in the politics" of both countries, he noted.
As the company pursues other customers, it is focusing on ones with similar mission sets as the U.S. military, he said.
"With the Navy choosing to buy V-22 for the COD mission, we're looking at people who have navies that are going to be needed to do that resupply mission for their carriers, and then in particular, for countries that are buying the F-35 lightning aircraft," he said. If they need to move a power module, for example, which is the largest piece of the F135 engine, it won't fit in existing turboprop delivery aircraft. However, the V-22 is large enough, he said.
The Marine Corps has been engaging with potential international customers, performing capability tests and interoperability landings on their ships, Lemaster said. Some of those countries include the United Kingdom, Italy, France, the Netherlands and South Korea.
To entice foreign buyers, Boeing is carrying out conceptual studies for roll-on/roll-off mission kits that those countries might be interested in adding to the V-22.
Potential add-ons include: the V-22 aerial refueling system, which will allow the platform to refuel other aircraft in flight (the Marine Corps is already planning on adding this capability to its MV-22); anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare mission kits; airborne warning and surveillance systems; and dipping sonar. "With a V-22 you could go out and cover a long distance or a large area and … you could just stop, hover and drop a mic and confirm the location of an enemy combatant."
In addition to new foreign military sales, the U.S. Air Force has to fill its long-range combat search-and-rescue requirement.
"We see a CV-22 as being a good gap filler for that. It's long range and it's … twice as fast as a conventional helicopter and can go roughly three times as far, and its air refueling capability all make it very suitable for being able to go a long way and pick up somebody."
This would be particularly useful in regions such as Africa, which has a large land mass, relatively little infrastructure and limited airfields, he said.
"You've [also] got areas like the Pacific where rather than a large land mass, you've got a large body of water so you've got limited areas where you can base your rescue forces out of," he said. "We talk about aircraft like fifth-generation fighters, F-35 being able to penetrate air spaces but at the same time the rest of the force structure is being held back 200 miles, 400 miles. As those aircraft go in, if there's a problem and one of their pilots bails out, we don't have helicopters close enough to go pick them up."
Lemaster said Boeing has been talking with Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operations Command about the potential of a mixed fleet of combat rescue helicopters and V-22s for that mission.
The number of V-22s that they would need to fill that gap is around 30, he said. "Based on what we understand the requirements are, we think that that would be the right number to add to the quantity of helicopters that you would buy."
Air Force leaders have been receptive to the idea, but budget constraints limit what platforms the service is able to purchase, he said.
"From a DoD standpoint, for a relatively modest investment, we could provide a capability that is unmatched in terms of rescuing people," Lemaster said.