With approval to buy up to eight aircraft, Indonesia is set to become the second country outside the U.S. to operate the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor.
The U.S. State Department on July 6 approved a plan for Jakarta to purchase up to eight MV-22 Block C aircraft and related equipment for $2 billion. The foreign military sales approval, announced by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), does not denote a sale. It is merely a green light for Bell and Boeing to export the aircraft if the team reaches a purchase agreement with Indonesia.
The Osprey, which can fly up to 350 miles per hour but land and takeoff like a helicopter, is marketed as ideally suited to nations like Indonesia, which has 17,000 islands spread over 2 million square kilometers (735,000 square miles) of Pacific Ocean.
Japan in 2015 ordered five Ospreys for the same reason. Its first two arrived by ship in Iwakuni on May 8. Japan plans to buy at least 17 Bell-Boeing MV-22Bs, the same aircraft operated by the U.S. Marine Corps.
Indonesia coming on board as the second MV-22B operator outside the U.S. “will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of an important regional partner that is a force for political stability, and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region,” according to DSCA.
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“It is vital to U.S. national interest to assist Indonesia in developing and maintaining a strong and effective self-defense capability. The proposed sale of aircraft and support will enhance Indonesia’s humanitarian and disaster relief capabilities and support amphibious operations. This sale will promote burden sharing and interoperability with U.S. Forces. Indonesia is not expected to have any difficulties absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces.”
The Bell-Boeing Joint Program Office is now working under a $4 billion multiyear contract to build 39 CMV-22B aircraft for the U.S. Navy, 14 MV-22B aircraft for the Marine Corps, one CV-22B for the Air Force and four MV-22Bs for Japan. That work takes the production line out to about 2024, but the contract opens a lane for foreign militaries to buy in at relatively low prices afforded by the volume of production.
Boeing built a $100 million factory outside Phildelphia to crank out Osprey fuselages, even as the Marine Corps nears its 360-aircraft program of record. It then set out on a campaign to market the aircraft to foreign customers, namely those buying F-35s and deploying them on ships and countries with special operations forces that need to travel far and fast to objectives.
The U.K. is a likely customer because the V-22 can carry the power module for the F-35B it is buying to fly from aircraft carriers. Israel was once in the running to purchase Ospreys for quick aerial response forces that could move from one end of the country to the other, depending on where they were needed, without needing to rely on ground-based infrastructure. Budgetary difficulties seem to have all but killed the Israel deal for now.
With a single MV-22B going for about $75 million, the $2 billion Indonesia deal comes with a passel of associated equipment, weapons, sensors and services.