The US Marine Corps' top aviation official has confirmed the Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey is one target of budget reduction proposals now under review.
So far, there have been proposals to reduce MV-22 purchases by between six and 24 aircraft during the next five years, said Lt Gen Terry Robling, the USMC's deputy commandant for aviation.
The Marines had hoped to buy 122 aircraft over a five-year period starting in fiscal year 2014. Bell Boeing, the contractor, would receive a lump-sum contract for all 122 aircraft and, in return, would reduce the price by 10%.
If the proposed cuts are accepted, the five-year total will drop to between 98 and 116. At those levels, Bell Boeing can still meet the 10% price cut, allowing the Marines to sign a multi-year deal, Robling said.
© US Navy
However, Robling added that the Marines are concerned the Department of Defense could cut the MV-22 procurement account even deeper. Reducing the five-year total below 98 aircraft could make it impossible for the contractors to offer the 10% discount, he said.
If the multi-year deal is not signed, the USMC would have to buy its MV-22s on an annual basis instead, which would expose the programme to potential budget changes every year.
The MV-22 is entering a period of budget uncertainty, even as programme officials claim the aircraft has "turned a corner" on several of its most vexing problems.
The tiltrotor's safety record has been of no serious concern for several years, but its operational costs have been criticised by lawmakers.
The MV-22's cost per flight hour had hovered as high as $12,000 until about eight months ago, Robling said. However, the cost has since dropped to about $9,000 per hour, with a monthly, fleet-wide average low of $7,500, he added.