Australia is also a prospective customer for the tiltrotor aircraft, a product of Bell and Boeing, says Richard Harris, Bell’s vice president for international military sales.
Japan plans to order the Osprey to strengthen its ability to move soldiers and equipment to remote islands that may be invaded or threatened with invasion. While Ospreys, able to fly faster and farther than helicopters, should make a great difference for that objective, 17 may not be enough, Harris says, speaking at Malaysia’s Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition.
Japan is preparing to launch a program, UH-X, for about 150 two-engine helicopters that could contribute to reinforcement of outlying islands. But the intended aircraft, of 5-6 metric tons (11,000-13,000 lb.) gross weight, will be more limited than the Osprey in payload, range and speed.
The outlying islands that Japan is worried about are never officially identified, but are obviously the Senkakus, which China claims under the name Diaoyu Islands.
Australia does not have missions of that sort, but industry officials note that MV-22s would bolster the effectiveness of the country’s special forces, which are repeatedly a key part of its contribution to operations in conjunction with allies.
Boeing promoted the Osprey at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon near Melbourne last month.
A suitable number of Ospreys for such a role would be 10, Harris says.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank in Canberra, questions whether Australia can justify buying Ospreys when it has Boeing CH-47 Chinooks in service and Alenia Aermacchi C-27 Spartan light airlifters on order.
A U.S. Air Force V-22 Osprey at Mildenhall AFB in Suffolk, England.