With production of the V-22 Osprey under its present, multi-year contract nearing conclusion, and the extent of a second multi-year procurement uncertain, the Bell-Boeing industry team and its main customer, the U.S. Marine Corps, have brought the tiltrotor to Dubai for the first time ever to extol its virtues to potential Middle Eastern customers. The V-22 on show this week is operated by the Marines and Air Force Special Operations Command, is getting good exposure. Among the visitors inquiring about the aircraft Sunday was HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, who stopped at the Osprey during his opening-day Royal Tour.
At a press conference later in the day, Bell and Boeing executives declined to identify prospects in the region, but said the Middle East holds promise for the Osprey. “If we were to handicap it, we would say the first opportunity would come from the Middle East, in terms of an international customer,” said John Garrison, Bell Helicopter president and CEO.
The international market is key for the V-22, which has been named as one of the programs vulnerable to pending, deep cuts in U.S. defense spending. The Osprey is in the third year of a five-year multi-year 1 (MYP1) contract for 174 aircraft, with production expected to run to 2014. In August the industry team submitted its proposal for a second multi-year procurement for 122 aircraft that would extend production through 2019. A contract award is expected in December 2012.
The V-22 program of record calls for 360 aircraft for the Marines, 50 for the Special Operations Command and 48–currently an unfunded requirement–for the Navy. There have been 157 aircraft fielded to date.
Asked about possible restructuring of the MYP2 procurement, Marine Col. Greg Masiello, V-22 joint program manager, said, “Obviously, like many other people, we’re closely watching the [U.S.] defense budget to see if there are any ramifications or any changes that we need to do. There isn’t any doubt from our standpoint that we are in pursuit of a second multi-year [procurement], and the reason is that the aircraft is extremely strong in production and it’s extremely strong in its performance in the field. We’re going to pursue it; we’re not backing away from a multi-year in any way.”
Garrison pitched the V-22 as an ideal solution for the Middle East not only as a military asset, but also for humanitarian missions. “There are three or four missions that customers have talked to the Marines about,” including search-and-rescue, emergency medical service and special operations, he said. “When you just look at the terrain and the ground they need to cover [in the Middle East], this aircraft is the perfect solution for them.”