Boeing Co and Bell Helicopter, makers of the V-22 Osprey, say more countries are interested in buying the tiltrotor aircraft, with another 100 sales possible in coming years.
The United Arab Emirates and a number of other countries are looking at buying 6 to 12 of the aircraft, which take off and land like a helicopter, but fly like a plane, company executives told Reuters at the Paris air show.
Chris Raymond, vice president of business development and strategy for Boeing Defense, Space & Security, said that could add up to around 100 foreign orders over time.
First fielded by the U.S. Marine Corps in 2007, the aircraft has rapidly become one of the U.S. military’s most popular and sought after aircraft due to its long range and ability to carry out missions quickly and participate in humanitarian missions.
Foreign sales have been slow to materialize, partly due to the relatively high price of the aircraft compared with helicopters.
The V-22 program got a big boost earlier this year when the U.S. Navy decided to use it to replace the C-2A fixed wing aircraft built by Northrop Grumman to ferry people and supplies on board aircraft carriers.
That decision will help Boeing and Bell extend production of the planes from 2020 to 2025, John Garrison, president of Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc, told Reuters in a separate interview at the Paris show.
“The more people see it, the more people use it, the more people understand its unique capabilities,” he said.
Garrison and Raymond both cited discussions with several other countries that are looking at possible V-22 purchases, but gave no details. Arms sales are generally negotiated between the United States and the buying country.
Garrison said he expected Japan, the first foreign buyer of the V-22, to finalize its order for 17 aircraft before the end of the summer.
He said it was unclear if or when Israel would revisit its plans to buy some V-22s. The Israeli order, first announced by former U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, was “on hold” for now.
“The Israeli air force is really interested. It really came down to an internal budget related issues,” he said.