A V-22 Osprey lands on an aircraft carrier. The U.S. Navy uses the aircraft for transporting personnel, cargo and mail from land to aircraft carriers. (Courtesy Photo | Bell Textron Inc.)

Bell Textron Inc. and Boeing received a $482 million contract to produce four more CMV-22B Osprey helicopters for the Navy. A majority of the work will be done in Fort Worth, where Bell is headquartered, and assembled in Amarillo.  

Experts say it could be the last batch of this particular model of aircrafts. 

The CMV-22B Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft, which means it can fly like a helicopter or tilt its rotors and fly like a plane. The Navy uses the aircraft to transport personnel, cargo and mail from land to aircraft carriers.

The aircraft is manufactured by a Bell and Boeing team. Bell assembles the aircraft and manufactures and integrates parts such as the wings and rotors. Boeing manufactures and integrates parts such as the flight controls, cockpit and fuselage. 

The V-22 Ospreys were used by the Marine Corps starting in 2007. The Air Force started using the aircraft’s variant, the CV-22, in 2009. The Ospreys were a staple in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, J.J. Gertler, a senior analyst for the Teal Group, said. The Navy started using the aircraft later, replacing Northrop Grunman’s C-2A Greyhound

“The V-22, because it can operate vertically, like a helicopter, as well as fly like an airplane, was able to deliver things to more different kinds of ships than the C-2, which needed to land on an aircraft carrier,” Gertler said. 

The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Maryland commissioned the aircrafts. Most of the work will be done in Fort Worth, according to the contract announcement, and is expected to be completed by June 2026. 

The contract announcement is not a surprise, Gertler said. Congress already appropriated funds for it last year. The bigger concern is that the program seems to be ending.

The 2024 U.S. defense budget asked for two V-22s and the Marine Corps added two more to its unfunded requirements list. There’s nothing after that, he said.

More than 375 V-22 Ospreys surpassed 500,000 flight hours in 2019, according to a Boeing release.  The Bell and Boeing team delivered its 400th V-22 in 2020.

In 2014, Bell cut 320 jobs in Fort Worth and Amarillo due to reduced defense spending on the V-22. 

But soon Bell will be assembling and manufacturing a new aircraft for the Army. Bell recently won a U.S. Army contract –  worth billions of dollars for decades to come – to produce the V-280  as part of the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft program.

“(Bell) will be able to build that aircraft in the same place that they were working on V-22,” Gertler said. 

Bell’s revenues were down $213 million from last year, according to Textron Inc.’s first-quarter earnings report. Textron CFO Frank Connor said the revenue dip was expected with lower production of V-22 and H-1 helicopters. Now that Bell is in the clear to produce helicopters for the Army following a protest from its opponent, Connor said he expects Bell’s revenue will grow. 

“Overall, the team did a really nice job from a cost structure standpoint in this quarter, offsetting that decline in volume, and we feel good about … how Bell is positioned in the performance of the business,” Connor said. 

Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at seth.bodine@fortworthreport.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120

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Seth BodineBusiness Reporter

Seth Bodine is the business reporter for the Fort Worth Report. He previously covered agriculture and rural issues in Oklahoma for the public radio station, KOSU, as a Report for America corps member....