Maker of V-22 Osprey encouraged by foreign interest

Tue Nov 19, 2013 1:27pm EST
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa

DUBAI (Reuters) - The head of Bell Helicopter said on Tuesday he was encouraged by foreign interest in the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft that his company builds with Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote), but Bell may face additional layoffs if not enough orders emerge.

John Garrison, president and chief executive of Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc (TXT.N: Quote), said the U.S. Marine Corps' use of the V-22 to provide disaster relief in the Philippines illustrated the capabilities of the aircraft, which can fly as fast as a plane but land like a helicopter.

"I think the world continues to stand up and take notice of the capabilities of the V-22 Osprey," Garrison told Reuters in an interview at the Dubai Airshow, where the Marine Corps has been providing demonstration flights to dozens of military officials from the Gulf region and other countries.

"We're encouraged," Garrison said, citing strong interest in the aircraft at the air show and solid support from the U.S. Marine Corps for the international sales drive.

"In this age of sequestration, and from a policy standpoint, international sales of our defense articles are important, both for U.S. military and the defense industry," Garrison said.

The U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force have a combined fleet of 250 aircraft, and military officials see potential sales of up to 250 more aircraft in coming decades.

The tilt-rotor aircraft is getting good reviews for its performance in combat after a rocky start that saw 23 Marines killed during flight testing in 2000. Two more Marines were killed during a training exercise in Morocco last year.

U.S. officials are finalizing details for an initial sale of six aircraft to Israel - the initial foreign buyer of the plane - at an estimated price of $70 million each, although it may buy twice as many over the longer term.   Continued...

Two U.S. Marines V-22 Ospreys, ferrying personnel to help in the relief efforts in Tacloban City, are seen on the tarmac at Villamor Air Base in Manila November 13, 2013. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo