MILITARY | VIP
Call it a helicopter without a mission, the ninth and final Increment 1 VH-71 has arrived at Lockheed Martin for completion, even though the wildly over budget VH-71 presidential helicopter program is dead. Worse yet, because the Increment 1s were meant as test beds for the more advanced, yet-to-be-built Increment 2 VH-71s, they probably will never find themselves on presidential duty. The reason, "Increment 1 helicopters do not meet requirements and are estimated to have only a five- to 10-year useful life," said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. "This compares to the current VH-3 presidential helicopters that are 30 to 40 years old."
"There is very little, if any, sentiment in Congress for saving the VH-71 presidential helicopter," observed Ray Jaworowski, Forecast International’s senior aerospace analyst. He expects a new competition for a replacement presidential helicopter in the near future, with Sikorsky once again advocating its S-92 (which lost last time), and AgustaWestland proposing "an updated Increment 1.5 configuration," he said. As for the existing Increment 1 VH-71s? You might want to make an offer.