Saying export discussions have intensified within the past six months, Textron chief executive Scott Donnelly now estimates as many as 12 countries could buy the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor after 2015.
"We're not talking about hundreds of countries" buying V-22s, Donnelly told analysts during a second-quarter earnings webcast on 20 July. "I think it's 10 to 12 countries that are going to buy these."
Donnelly named Israel as one nation involved in export discussions for the unique tiltrotor aircraft, which can hover and land vertically like a helicopter. However, others have not been disclosed because the countries have not announced their interest, he added.
© US Navy
Different versions of the V-22 will remain in production for the US Marine Corps and US Air Force through at least 2016.
Only then will the Bell Boeing joint venture producing the aircraft have the manufacturing capacity to deliver more to foreign customers, Donnelly said.
The potential production gap is still five years away, but the negotiating process with potential foreign buyers already started taking shape two years ago.
In March, the Israeli air force expressed new interest in acquiring the V-22, and a team of evaluators was dispatched last month to Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina.
Meanwhile, Bell Boeing and the USMC are continuing to negotiate terms for a possible multi-year procurement deal for hundreds of MV-22s, with the aim of obtaining higher savings than possible on annual orders.
The MV-22 has been flying in operational service for the Marines for more than five years. More recently, the CV-22 has been launched into service by the Air Force Special Operations Command.
A recent highlight of the MV-22's performance was the rescue earlier this year of a USAF Boeing F-15E crew that had ejected over Libya.