Bell just got a big military aircraft contract. Will Fort Worth get any new jobs?

V-22 Osprey
V-22 Osprey Bell

Fort Worth-based Bell and its partner Boeing have won a $4.2 billion military contract to deliver 58 tiltrotor aircraft over the next six years.

Company officials say it’s too early to speak about whether the deal will lead to the creation of new jobs at the Fort Worth helicopter manufacturing facility. But the news certainly bodes well for the roughly 4,200 North Texans who already work there.

“This multi-year production contract provides program production stability through at least 2024 and supports existing jobs,” spokeswoman Lindsey Hughes said in an email.

The contract calls for delivery of variations of the V-22 Osprey to the Navy, Marines, Air Force and Japan.

Much of the work on the military contract is expected to be done in Fort Worth, while other portions of it will be done at Bell and Boeing facilities in other cities. Bell assembles the V-22 at its Amarillo location.

Bell has committed to keep 4,500 employees in Fort Worth through 2020 and 3,900 workers through 2028, under terms of a $13.5 million tax incentive deal with the city of Fort Worth.

More than 200 Ospreys — a tilt-rotor aircraft that can take off like a helicopter and fly like an airplane — are in operation with the U.S. military.

Bell Helicopter is ready to jump head-first into unmanned aerial vehicles. It might deliver a package to your house or ammunition to the military.

The job outlook at Bell is certainly rosier than just four years ago, when the company (formerly Bell Helicopter) was forced to lay off hundreds of workers in large part because of a downturn in Defense Department orders of the V-22.

Bell is headquartered in Fort Worth and is a subsidiary of Rhode Island conglomerate Textron Inc. Its total workforce is made up of about 7,200 people.

The contract, which is a modification of a previously announced deal with the Defense Department, was announced by Bell Boeing’s Joint Program Office in Amarillo.

Terms of the contract include delivery of 39 CMV-22B aircraft for the Navy, 14 MV-22B aircraft for the Marine Corps, one CV-22B for the Air Force and four MV-22B aircraft for the government of Japan.

“Bell Boeing is pleased to extend production of the V-22, supporting our war fighters with one of the most versatile and in-demand platforms in the U.S. arsenal,” said Chris Gehler, Bell vice president for the V-22 program. “This multi-year production contract provides program production stability through at least 2024.”

The U.S. Navy will use the aircraft for transporting personnel and cargo from shore to aircraft carriers, eventually replacing the C-2 Greyhound, according to a Bell Boeing news release. The C-2 Greyhound has been in service since the mid-1960s.

“By combining aircraft for three services and a key U.S. Ally into one multi-year order, the U.S. Navy gets more capability for its procurement dollar,” Kristin Houston, vice president of Boeing Tiltrotor Programs and director of the Bell Boeing V-22 Program, said in a statement. “It also enables the U.S. Navy to begin advancing its carrier on-board delivery fleet with modern tiltrotor aircraft.”

This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796; @gdickson
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