Japan is now officially set to become the first foreign operator of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey after signing a $332 million contract for five of the tiltrotor aircraft.
The foreign military sale – announced on 14 July by the US Department of Defense – is likely to lead to follow-on orders.
The US State Department notified Congress in May that Japan had requested a purchase of up to 17 V-22B Block C aircraft worth $3 billion, which agrees with Tokyo’s latest five-year budget plan.
For Bell Boeing, the deal consummates a decade-long quest to confirm an export customer for the tiltrotor. Israel had appeared poised to become the first foreign operator only a year ago, but the country’s defence minister shelved the acquisition of six V-22s last October.
Spill tipped me to this yesterday. It’s a good thing for Bell. They have contracts through 2017 to build V-22s for the Marines and the Air Force. When those are complete, the Air Force will have accepted 50 and the Marines all but 24 of their planned 360 aircraft. It’s a near certainty that a new contract will be let for the remaining 24, plus a planned buy of 24 for the US Navy, which plans to use it in the carrier on board delivery role.
It’s unclear how many V-22s Japan might ultimately buy and if they will pursue a license production agreement as they have with so many other aircraft buys.