SALON DU BOURGET, France -- In September, Japan will receive the first of its 17 V-22 Ospreys and become the first international buyer to fly the one-of-a-kind tiltrotor aircraft. But other nations may not be far behind.
In an interview with Military.com here at the Paris Air Show, Marine Col. Dan Robinson, the military's V-22 Joint Program Manager, indicated it's likely that more countries will sign on as part of the Osprey's third multi-year procurement contract, expected to be negotiated before the end of this year.
"In general, there's a lot of interest in the capability of the platform in terms of what it can do, its flexibility in terms of being able to take off and land vertically yet still have that speed and range capability. It covers a spectrum of different mission sets," Robinson said.
"So we have a lot of folks looking at the aircraft in terms of what it can do, how the Marines have used it, how the Air Force has used it, and now the Navy is on board with carrier onboard delivery capabilities that that brings as well," he added.
Japan reportedly plans to base several of its Ospreys on the helicopter carrier Izumo, and deploy more to the East China Sea to defend its territorial holdings. It will receive four of the aircraft as part of the already-completed second multi-year procurement lot, and the remainder in the third lot.
The Navy also plans to buy 48 slightly modified Ospreys, a new variant that will be known as the CMV-22 and designed with greater fuel capacity for slightly longer range. While 44 of the aircraft will be used to replace aging C-2 Greyhound planes for delivery of cargo and personnel to aircraft carriers, a briefing reviewed by Military.com shows other missions for the souped-up Ospreys may include personnel recovery and special warfare.
"The options are as wide as what you can think of to put on the back of a V-22 and execute a mission," Robinson said of other ways the Navy may opt to use its Osprey fleet.
The Navy's Ospreys will be procured in fiscal 2018, pending approval of the multi-year buy, and delivered in 2020, with operational units standing up the following year. New Navy Osprey pilots will train with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204, the Corps' Osprey training squadron based at New River, North Carolina. Japanese aviators are already training at the facility ahead of the Osprey delivery this fall.
While the Osprey battled through years of bad press after several high-profile crashes early in its development, officials said the aircraft is emerging as a versatile powerhouse -- one they say actually has the best safety record of a Marine Corps aircraft.
"It's a very exciting time," Robinson said. "I've seen some significant changes to the program in terms of the Navy coming on board and international sales, and I'm just excited about the future of the V-22. If you can imagine some mission that you need to do, the V-22 is definitely in the mix for a platform to execute that mission."