An MV-22 Osprey takes off from the flight deck of the USS Nassau. (Photo by National Museum of the U.S. Navy)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.–Having Japan as a foreign military sales partner on the V-22 could end up saving the U.S. government $60 million or more over the life of the program, efficiencies Osprey Program Manager Marine Corps Col. Matthew Kelly hopes will increase as more countries buy into the tiltrotor’s promise of increased speed and range over traditional helicopters.

“We’ve saved over $30 million between savings we’ve gotten through production efficiencies, flight test efficiencies, as well as their contribution to some of the engineering changes that we’ve put on the aircraft,” Kelly said May 7 at the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space conference here. “In the future, we think there’s at least another $30 million ahead of us that Japan will help us save when we develop new capabilities and readiness improvements for the V-22.”

“They have been a great partner and we have certainly seen real, tangible savings from them being a part of the program,” he added.

With the Marine Corps and AFSOC nearing their programs of record — the Marines have 326 of the total 360 they need while the Air Force has taken delivery of 52 of its 56 required aircraft — the Bell [TXT] and Boeing [BA] production lines were throttling down until the Navy came onboard.

The service last year decided officially to replace the aging C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft with the CMV-22, but will only buy 48 of them. The new COD should become operational in 2021.

Japan plans to buy only 17, the first of which should be delivered in the current fiscal year. Developmental testing on the Japan-specific airframes is complete. Next year Japanese pilots will train on the first delivered aircraft in the U.S. before crossing the Pacific.

Bell and Boeing are building MV-22s for the Marine Corps, CV-22s for Air Force Special Operations Command and CMV-22s for Navy carrier onboard delivery under a third multiyear V-22 production contract that runs from fiscal 2018 through 2022.

To get in on that pre-negotiated multiyear pricing, the deadline is December 2020 to allow advanced procurement for the 2022 production.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that will be the last chance to buy a V-22 forever, but to get in on that great multiyear pricing that’s so attractive to both our domestic and foreign customers, December of 2020 is the deadline,” Kelly said.

Several factors should drive countries to the V-22, including its inarguable speed and range superiority over traditional aircraft. Allies and military partners are seeing the V-22 in action during multi-lateral international exercises, Kelly said. Countries whose militaries cover large distances or must traverse difficult terrain on a regular basis see the value in tiltrotor technology, he said.

Israel has an on-again, off-again desire to buy Ospreys. The U.K. also has expressed interest and a couple of V-22s followed President Trump across the Atlantic during his 2018 visit to England. Japan and the U.K. share an operational requirement that other countries may soon find binds them to future V-22 purchases. They both are committed to operating the F-35B from ships.

The F-35B has a very large Pratt&Whitney [UTX] F135 engine that can only be carried to and from a ship at sea by a V-22.

“When it comes to a country like Japan, which is now committed to buying the F-35B, we think that the synergy the Marine Corps has found between V-22 and F-35 support on our L-class ships, certainly Japan could take advantage of that as well,” Kelly said. “There may be other countries in addition to that that may well want that capability, logistically, to be able to move the power module on and off shipboard that the V-22 can provide.”