The MV-22 Osprey, a frequent performer at airshows to showcase the tilt-rotor aircraft, will be skipping a chance to impress potential buyers next week at the Farnborough International Airshow outside London.
The Ospreys, made by Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter and Boeing Co., skipped the Paris Air Show last year in a cost-saving move by the Pentagon during the battles with Congress over the sequester budget process.
However, Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, the deputy commandant for aviation, and Col. Greg Masiello, then the program manager for the Osprey, were on hand at Le Bourget airfield outside Paris to talk up the aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter and flies like a fixed-wing aircraft.
At Farnborough, neither the Ospreys nor the industry or military teams from the Naval Air Systems Command who support them will be present to promote the Osprey, said a spokeswoman for NavAir.
In 2012, the Osprey performed at the biannual Farnborough airshow and at similar airshows in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
Foreign sales could serve as a key to keeping the Osprey production line open past the current phase out date in 2018.
The aircraft’s history had been a drawback to potential foreign buyers. More than 30 Marines and contractors were killed in Osprey crashes during development, but the Marine Corps and the manufacturers maintain that the aircraft has since proved its reliability by logging more than 200,000 flight hours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For nearly three years, Bell and the Marines have talked up the potential for foreign sales but no sales have been completed as of yet.
Currently, “we’re having open discussions with Israel, the UAE, Japan and others,” said Schenck of Bell Helicopter.
In April last year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Tel Aviv announced that the first sale of an Osprey would go to Israel as part of a major arms package to shore Israel’s defenses. Financial arrangements have yet to be completed for the delivery of six Ospreys to the Israeli Special Forces, possibly in 2016.
Last December, potential foreign sales of Ospreys got a major boost when Japan announced a new “National Security Strategy” to give offensive capability to its “Self-Defense Forces.”
The strategy called for Japan to spend $240 billion over the next five years on new equipment for the military to include 17 MV-22 Ospreys, 28 F-35 fighters, three unarmed Global Hawk drones and 52 amphibious troop carriers.