FORT WORTH — Bell Helicopter has been awarded a second multiyear contract to build 99 V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, the company said Thursday.The five-year contract for production and delivery of the aircraft is valued at about $6.5 billion, officials said. The contract is with the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command and includes a provision to produce 23 additional aircraft.“Signing this contract speaks volumes towards the confidence our services have in the V-22 Osprey,” Marine Corps Col. Greg Masiello, V-22 Joint Program Office program manager, said in a news release.“Since 2007, the V-22 has been continuously forward-deployed in a range of combat, humanitarian and special operations roles,” Masiello said. “Ospreys continue to transform our Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force and Air Force Special Operations by enabling missions not possible with conventional aircraft, and helped save lives where others could not.”The V-22 Osprey uses tilt-rotor technology to combine the speed and range of a fixed-wing airplane with the vertical performance of a helicopter. The aircraft is being used in Afghanistan to ferry freight and soldiers.Fort Worth-based Bell, a unit of Textron, produces the tilt-rotor aircraft in partnership with Boeing Co. The aircraft are assembled in Amarillo with many parts made in the Fort Worth area. Under the current contract, which ends in 2015, the company is producing about 30 a year. More than 200 Ospreys are in operation, Bell officials said.“The versatile V-22 Osprey is the ideal aircraft for an era when global militaries are being asked to do more with less,” said Vince Tobin, executive director, Bell Boeing V-22 Program.The aircraft had a rocky development period that took more than two decades and included huge cost overruns and crashes that claimed 30 lives.For example, its initial deployment to Iraq’s Anbar province from 2007 to 2009, where it was used mainly to transport people and cargo, brought criticism from the Government Accountability Office over maintenance and performance issues.But recently in Afghanistan, the V-22 tilt-rotor has received positive reviews as Marines have been able to use it more broadly to carry equipment and Marines in and out of landing zones, often under intense fire. This report includes material from McClatchy Newspapers.
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705 Twitter: @yberard