MILITARY | VIP/HEAD OF STATE
The U.S. Navy appears to be sticking with the AW101-based VH-71 as the next U.S. presidential transport helicopter, despite significant delays and budget overruns on the program.
The lead contractor on the program, Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, N.Y., has been working with the Naval Air Systems Command on restructure the program in an effort to recover some of the delays and overruns. Lockheed is teamed with AgustaWestland and Bell Helicopter.
Contractors were summoned to a Washington meeting Jan. 12 to review the status of the program and restructuring, after which the Navy issued a statement that the program office and Lockheed Martin "have closed the gap, are in agreement on the contract requirements and have made significant progress toward initial operational capability."
Meanwhile, the Navy reported that the first two VH-71s have started flight tests with it and the U.S. Marine Corps at NAS Patuxent River, Md. The Navy-owned test vehicles, TV-2 and TV-5, arrived at Pax River in November and December, respectively, aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo plane from AgustaWestland’s facility in Yeovil, England. The VH-71s are intended to replace the Sikorsky Aircraft VH-3Ds and VH-60Ns of Marine Helicopter Sqdn. 1 (HMX-1).