Paul Derby

The Bell Boeing V-22 military tiltrotor will officially be in the running for foreign sales by year-end when the programme reaches another key milestone, executives said at the show.

'Milestone 3' will rubber stamp the long-held vision of the technology being offered to selected overseas customers and is the prelude to an aggressive marketing campaign in countries such as the UK and Japan.

"That's when the real business starts for our sales people," says Bell vice-president Jeff Pino. "The programme is absolutely on track and we are looking forward to more talks with overseas customers."

The UK in particular looks set to be a fierce battleground between Bell Boeing, Sikorsky with the S-92 and the Anglo-Italian EH Industries EH101.

The UK Joint Helicopter Command will oversee the Support Amphibious Battlefield Rotorcraft (SABR) competition, which will likely be launched in 2002. The programme was previously known as FASH -Future Amphibious Support Helicopter.

Bell Boeing believes the subtle name change to include the word 'rotorcraft' is an indication of the UK's belief that tiltrotor technology is a serious contender.

On the US domestic front the V-22 programme is continuing to gather pace. The US Marine Corps has a requirement for 360 MV-22s, while the US Navy is to take HV-22 combat rescue variants and the US Special Operations Command will receive CV-22s.

Meanwhile Bell confirms that it continues to study a quad tiltrotor, christened the QTR, which would take the wings, nacelles, engines and proprotors from the V-22 and marry them with a modified Lockheed Martin C-130-30 fuselage.

The result would be an aircraft with a vertical take-off gross weight of more than 45,500kg (100,000lb) - twice that of the V-22. "It's still conceptual at this stage," says Pino, "but we are already seeing a lot of interest."

Source: Flight Daily News