AIRSHOW-U.S. military sees growth in foreign sales of V-22 Osprey

Mon Nov 18, 2013 4:00am EST
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa

DUBAI Nov 18 (Reuters) - Foreign sales of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft built by Boeing Co and Bell Helicopter could grow significantly in the "very near future," top U.S. military officials said, citing interest in both military uses and for VIP transports.

Marine Corps Colonel Dan Robinson, who heads the Pentagon's V-22 joint program office, said the U.S. military's increased use of the V-22 or Osprey around the globe was spurring demand.

The Marine Corps has four V-22s at the Dubai Airshow, where pilots are flying demonstration flights for potential buyers. They were dispatched from a ship off the coast of Africa, flying 1,500 miles to get to the Gulf.

"We see a great opportunity in this region not only from a military FMS (foreign military sales) perspective, but also to be used in the VIP or executive role," Robinson told Reuters at the air show. "You can reconfigure the cargo area quite a bit."

The U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force have a combined fleet of 250 aircraft with 139 more V-22s on order, but military officials see potential additional sales of up to 250 more aircraft in coming decades.

Robinson declined to predict how many aircraft could be sold for VIP use, noting that those discussions were still in the "early stages." But he said some initial sales to foreign militaries could be announced soon.

"In the very near future we could see quite a growth in the foreign military sales area," he said. He declined to provide details.

U.S. officials have provided briefings on the V-22 to the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Italy, Brazil, Colombia, Singapore, and Australia.   Continued...