The per-unit price of an MV-22 in fiscal 2012 is $67 million, including the Rolls-Royce engines, says Marine Col. Gregory Masiello, the Pentagon's V-22 program manager. Bell-Boeing has been delivering MV-22s at or ahead of schedule and at or below cost estimates, he adds.
Boeing is benefiting from its experience in cutting the C-17 production rate by one-third without a price increase. “We specifically have teams going to figure out how you can decrease quantities and hold to that price,” says Rader.
The introduction of robotics into Boeing's factory for assembly and fabrication of composite materials has helped to lower costs, says Rader. Additionally, the quality of work at both Bell's final assembly factory in Amarillo, Texas, and Boeing's Philadelphia facility, where the fuselage and cockpit are assembled, has improved. “What is resonating much more with the customer set is not as much the unit price but the overall business case for [what] the concept of operations will be,” says Rader. “Whether the aircraft is $58 million or in the [$60-69 million range], you can make that business case close very easily because of the efficiencies you get. You recoup that cost when you look at the passenger per pound mile of fuel.”
Meanwhile, the utility of the aircraft since it was declared operational in 2007 is a selling point, according to the Marine Corps. “The operators are learning an awful lot about the V-22 that they did not know before,” says Masiello. “Our readiness and cost are greatly improved.” He cites a 19% improvement in 2011 in the fleet-wide mission-capable rate as well as a 13% reduction in the cost per flight hour for the aircraft.
The program also gained credibility last year after two MV-22s from the USS Kearsarge in the Mediterranean rescued a downed U.S. Air Force F-15E pilot in Libya. The aircraft's speed (up to 282 kt.) and range, key attributes, were central to its ability to execute the mission from a ship roughly 130 nm from the pilot. “Total time from launch to return—90 minutes round trip. That is what the Osprey gets you, that speed,” a Marine Corps official said after the mission. The rescue is said to have been a factor in the UAE's decision to buy the tiltrotor for its special operations forces. The Osprey also debuted at the Dubai air show last year.
As for Israel, its interest is serious, though the timing is uncertain. The country sent pilots to the U.S. last year to be trained in flying the aircraft and conducted an evaluation of its capabilities. “It is an understatement . . . that we have growing interest,” says Masiello. “We believe it is a very earnest interest that will probably turn into customers shortly.” He emphasizes that the industry team is motivated to take up as much as possible of the extra capacity on the Marine Corps line left after the cuts.
The MV-22 will make an appearance this year at the Royal International Air Tattoo near London as well as at the Farnborough air show in order to generate more international interest.
The U.S. Navy is another customer opportunity. The service recently completed an analysis of alternatives for a Grumman C-2 replacement and the “V-22 has competed quite favorably,” says Masiello.
The C-2 is a passenger and cargo transport used for Navy aircraft carriers. Typically, the C-2 delivers cargo and it is distributed in a spoke-and-hub fashion; other rotorcraft are then used to transport supplies to ships in the battle group. The V-22's vertical-lift capabilities, mixed with cargo capacity, eliminate the need for a secondary fleet of rotorcraft to move supplies to smaller ships, says Masiello. “I think from the way we look at the numbers . . . we compete quite competitively.”
The MV-22 recently received clearance to fly onto Navy aircraft carriers and it is now conducting envelope-expansion work on the USS Bush. The aircraft has also been cleared for operations on the French Mistral amphibious assault ship.