V-22 Sees Up To 100 Foreign Sales

V-22 Osprey

PARIS AIR SHOW: Flight hour costs have dropped while readiness rates have improved for the V-22, a rare feat indeed for a modern combat aircraft.

Critics have pointed to the V-22′s readiness rates and costs as yet another reason to curtail the program, but when I asked Marine Col. Greg Masiello, manager of the Joint Program Office, what their current maintenance costs are, he said they are down to $9,520 an hour at the same time they’ve substantially increased the plane’s readiness rates.

“In 2010 we have had a 28 percent increase in readiness; at the same time we’ve had a 19 percent decrease in maintenance costs, as measured by cost per flight hour,” an obviously pleased program manager replied when I asked him for the latest numbers. “I’m unaware of any other program that has demonstrated an increase in readiness while lowering flight hour costs.”

This news come fresh on the heels of the V-22 program landing an impressive commitment from the Pentagon for a $6.5 billion, five-year mulityear contract for 99 Ospreys. The average unit price for the V-22s ordered across that deal is $70 million, he told reporters here during a briefing at the Boeing chalet. While that isn’t, strictly speaking news (the redoubtable Rick Whittle reported that for us in February), he buried the information and we want to make sure you know.)

The other news from today’s briefing was that the US may sell as many as 100 Ospreys to other countries. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel identified Israel as a buyer back in April. The United Arab Emirates are believed to be keenly interested, Japan may well buy some now that the Japanese public has seen the aircraft does not fall out of the sky. Masiello would not be drawn on specific countries but these are pretty obvious. Masiello showed photos of Ospreys landing on two different classes of Japanese ships last week, the JS Shimokita and the JS Hyuga. What did landing on these ships demonstrate? The V-22 doesn’t need ”a big flat deck” to operate from, he said.

The French might want V-22s for carriers like their Mistral, which trained with the Marines during Bold Alligator 2012. And Masiello said there might well be training done with the French carrier to demonstrate the plane’s capabilities and ensure the US could fly with the French and operate from the Mistral.

And the Osprey program has kept the Navy moving to try the V-22 as a Carrier On-Board Delivery (COD) aircraft. Currently, the Navy relies on ancient C-2A Greyhounds, twin-engine turboprops that haul cargo, mail and passengers between carriers and the shore. The first prototypes flew in 1964.

Masiello said the aircraft was flying last week from a carrier, the USS Harry Truman, as part of a formal Military Utility Assessment. “All the reports — not done yet — all are, so far so good,” the enthusiastic Marine told his audience. If the Navy goes for the aircraft that could mean another 30 to 50 V-22s for manufacturer Bell-Boeing, Masiello estimated when I pressed him. The next multi-year contact — number three — could handle much of such a Navy order, along with the foreign sales mentioned above.

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