Boeing rotorcraft chief says prospects for foreign sales bright

Mon Oct 21, 2013 9:49pm EDT
 
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of Boeing Co's BA.N rotorcraft unit said strong international demand would help limit the pain of a decline in U.S. military spending and that discussions with Japan about a possible purchase of V-22 tiltrotors had accelerated in recent months.

Japanese interest in the aircraft - which takes off and lands like a helicopter, but flies like a plane - has grown now that the U.S. Marine Corps has deployed the aircraft there for over a year. Public resistance to the V-22s on the island of Okinawa, which has a large U.S. military presence, has also diminished.

"They've started to see the capabilities because of the U.S. presence over there. They're starting to resonate with the platform itself," Leanne Caret, vice president and general manager for vertical lift in Boeing's defense division, told Reuters in an interview.

Caret added that there had been interest in the aircraft in the Middle East. "An order from the Middle East will open some serious doors," she said.

A senior Pentagon official told Reuters in June that the U.S. government had provided briefings to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Brazil, Colombia, Singapore and Australia about the V-22 aircraft, also known as the Osprey.

Caret said executives from Boeing and Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc TXT.N, are in Israel this week to help support the sale of V-22 tiltrotor aircraft that was announced by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in April.

The expected downturn in U.S. defense spending was similar to declines seen after the end of other military conflicts, but this was the first time that there was such strong international demand at the same time, she said.

Recent wins in helicopter competitions in South Korea, which ordered Boeing's Apache helicopter, and India, which is buying CH-47 Chinooks could help generate additional sales in those respective regions, as well as follow on work for aircraft support.   Continued...