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.
“The Bell Boeing team is honoured to have Japan as the first international customer for the V-22 tiltrotor,” says Mitch Snyder, executive vice-president of military business for Bell Helicopter.
The V-22’s unique capabilities – a 260kt (480km/h) cruise speed coupled with vertical landing – have been highlighted amidst a stand-off between China and Japan over disputed and normally unoccupied islands.
Snyder did not specifically refer to the island dispute in a statement released by Bell Boeing.
“The distinct performance envelope of the V-22 will provide Japan with an ideal solution when the need arises,” he says. “When assets are required on-target in a location without an airstrip, the self-deployable Osprey provides customers with an unrivalled combination of speed, range, and payload to execute a variety of missions.”
The contract award notice indicates that all five aircraft will be delivered to Japan by June 2018.