(Adds comment from Bell executive, paragraphs 6-11)
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON, July 14 (Reuters) - Japan has agreed to spend $332.5 million to buy an initial five V-22 tiltrotor planes built by Boeing Co and Bell Helicopter, finalizing the first international sale of the “Osprey” aircraft, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday.
It was the first tranche of 17 V-22s and 40 engines built by Britain’s Rolls Royce Holdings Plc that Japan plans to buy in coming years for a total value of about $3 billion, according to a May congressional notification by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).
At the time, DSCA said the proposed sale will help Japan modernize its transport fleet and enhance its ability to carry out humanitarian and disaster relief missions, and support amphibious operations.
Bell-Boeing, a strategic alliance between Textron Inc’s Bell Helicopter and Boeing, said the deal would give Japan access to a game-changing technology, offering the ability to get people and cargo to remote areas without an airstrip.
“The V-22 redefines what’s operationally possible for a country, and we’re looking forward to delivering this capability to Japan as we continue our enduring partnership there,” said Shelley Lavender, president of Boeing’s military aircraft division.
Mitch Snyder, executive vice president of Bell’s military business, said the Osprey offered “an unrivaled combination of speed, range, and payload.”
The United Arab Emirates and other countries are also looking at possible orders of six to 12 V-22 aircraft, which could add up to another 100 sales in coming years, industry executives told Reuters at the Paris Airshow last month.
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 slower to materialize than initially expected, partly due to the relatively high price of the aircraft compared with helicopters.
The U.S. Navy’s decision to buy 44 V-22s to replace the aging C-2A fixed wing aircraft that now ferry people and supplies on board aircraft carriers will help extend production of the planes from 2020 to 2025.
Last month, Bell Helicopter President John Garrison said it was unclear if or when Israel would revisit plans to buy some V-22s after the deal was put on hold for budget reasons. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli, Bernard Orr and David Gregorio)