FORT WORTH -- Bell Helicopter is expected to get an order for 99 more V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft this week, the Reuters news agency reported.
The Navy plans to sign a five-year contract valued just under $6.5 billion to buy the aircraft, which are built by Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter in partnership with Boeing Co.
Talk of a second multiyear contract has been "a long time coming," aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia said Tuesday. Looming cuts in defense budgets have "prevented it from being signed earlier than now."
Marine Corps Col. Gregory Masiello told Reuters that the government's decision to sign a second five-year deal showed its confidence in a program that had once been threatened with cancellation.
He said 92 of the aircraft in the order will be built for the Marines and the Air Force will receive seven, according to the article. The second, multiyear contract would end in 2017 and includes options for 22 additional aircraft.
Reuters also reported that the Navy is exploring the possibility of a third multiyear contract for 100 or more aircraft.
Over several years, Bell and Boeing have delivered about 230 of the tilt-rotor aircraft to the military. Under Bell's current contract with the government, which ends in 2015, the company is producing about 30 a year.
The V-22, which takes off like a helicopter and flies like an airplane, is also part of a weapon package being offered to Israel. If the deal is completed, it would be the first foreign sale of the aircraft.
The Osprey is assembled at a Bell plant in Amarillo with many components manufactured in the Fort Worth area.