Textron is already bracing for further production rate cuts for the Bell Boeing V-22 tiltrotor as the programme enters a proposed third multi-year contract period in 2018.
“I don’t think it’s likely we’ll hold current productions,” says Scott Donnelly, the chief executive of Textron, the parent of Bell Helicopter, speaking to analysts on 20 April on a first quarter earnings call. “It’s going to be a little bit south of that.”
V-22 production peaked in 2013 with 41 aircraft delivered to the US Marine Corps and US Air Force. It has since declined to an annual rate of 24 aircraft deliveries, even as the tiltrotor has attracted its first export order from Japan and secured a long-term deal to supply 48 CMV-22s to the US Navy starting in 2021.
But the USMC and USAF’s’ requirement for the hybrid vertical-lift machine is nearly exhausted. Beyond 2017, when the second multi-year contract expires, the Marines plan to buy around 40 more aircraft. The USAF is considering buying a handful of new aircraft in the next multi-year contract period.
Programme officials have discusseed winning more contracts overseas, but Textron’s bookkeepers are not counting on foreign orders to keep production rates steady.
“I don’t see a potential outcome where we hold production rates,” Donnelly says.
Bell Boeing delivered six V-22 aircraft in the first quarter, matching the output in the same period of 2015.
The US Navy awarded Bell Boeing a $151 million contract earlier this month to begin developing a longer-range version of the V-22, which the service intends to put into service as a replacement for the fixed-wing Grumman C-2 carrier onboard delivery fleet.