DH - Defence Helicopter

Paris Air Show: Boeing foreshadows V-22 line closure

10th June 2019 - 12:00 GMT | by Damian Kemp in Philadelphia

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It is ‘final call’ at the last chance saloon for any new or existing customers considering buying or purchasing more V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, according to manufacture partner Boeing, with Letters of Agreement for international customers needing to be signed by September 2020 if the line is to remain open.

With Bell-Boeing preparing to unveil the ‘closing down’ banner for the production line, existing customers looking for additional or future attrition aircraft, such as the USMC, USAF or USN, or new customers, such as Israel, which was considering the purchase of six aircraft, have as little as 18 months to sign on the dotted line. 

The company is unlikely to manufacture ‘white tail’ aircraft which could be held in anticipation of future orders. A Boeing spokesperson listed potential US sales which may take the production line further but 2024 is the end of current contracts.

'The original force for USAF was 75, they settled on 50, but is a number like 60 more realistic? You can’t replace these aircraft once the line closes,’ the spokesperson said.

‘The USN, they’ve got [48] but analysis says maybe another squadron on the east and west coasts, so there may be another 20. The USMC is looking to fly out to 2060, there is a certain amount for attrition, maybe another dozen or two dozen aircraft are needed.

‘At some point we will not be building them anymore, we will turn the lights out... but international customers will need discussions [in the next few months] with the US government.’

Future applications for the V-22, such as armed, sensing, or UAV launching, remain dependent upon customers stepping forward. Rocket firing and mounting a gun in the nose or off the fuselage have been evaluated or tested and the UAV concept would see a containerised platform launched for ISR, an operation more possible with a slower tiltrotor than a faster fixed-wing aircraft.

V-22s have been demonstrated on Australian, French, Dutch, Spanish and UK ships - all countries which are potential customers - to show interoperability with the USMC.

Fuselages continue to be made at Boeing’s Philadelphia site with assembly at a new Bell site in Amarillo but a new $100 million line in Philadelphia is being committed to the common configuration readiness and modernisation programme which will reduce the number or differences between aircraft to more common standards.

The Philadelphia line could also be eventually used to carry out further upgrades, changes, improvements or role modifications over coming decades.

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