Bell is working with partner Boeing to finalise a number of export sales campaigns for its V-22 Osprey even as it continues development activities on its V-280 Valor third-generation tiltrotor.
“There are targets of opportunity that we are continuing to pursue,” says Bell chief executive John Garrison. “Once we secure the first [Foreign Military Sales] contract, I think others will follow thereafter.”
Israel is the leading candidate for the first export order having formally requested the acquisition of six aircraft via the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
Japan too, has expressed an interest in purchasing the tiltrotor, with media reports indicating a requirement for 17 examples. Conversations with potential customers “from all over the globe” are continuing, says Garrison, citing possibilities in the Middle East and Europe.
Garrison believes the Osprey highlighted its capabilities in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. It was the first aircraft to arrive to perform humanitarian assistance having deployed some 1,300nm (2,400km) from Okinawa and then operated from unsurfaced airfields, says Garrison.
In addition to the overseas opportunities, Bell hopes the US Marine Corps will commit to an additional 23 MV-22s above the current multi-year deal, which including orders for the US Air Force, totals 100 airframes.
Meanwhile, work continues on the V-280 for the US Army-led Joint Multi-Role technology demonstrator programme for its Future Vertical-Lift requirement.
Garrison anticipates the service reducing the current shortlist of four bidders to just two proposals in around June or July this year.
Assuming it is on the shortlist – a Boeing-Sikorsky team is likely to be the other down-selected - Bell is targeting “late 2017” for first flight of the General Electric-powered aircraft, with the V-280 entering an engineering, manufacturing and development phase shortly after.
And the manufacturer is already eyeing opportunities for the V-280 outside its home market. “We believe this programme will have a tremendous opportunity for foreign military sales – it is like the [Lockheed Martin] Joint Strike Fighter for rotorcraft,” says Garrison.
And, further out, the V-280 could later morph into a civil variant, says Garrison, despite the 2011 sale of its share of the AW609 programme to AgustaWestland. “We are very bullish on the concept of the tiltrotor,” he says.