House Moves To Keep VH-71 Increment One Alive

by: Matthew Potter
July 20, 2009

Category: Agusta Westland, Business Line, Companies, Congress, Contract Awards, Department of Defense, development program, Events, Federal Budget Process, Lockheed Martin, Military Aviation, production program, Restructuring, Services, U.S. Navy | RSS 2.0

The various defense appropriations and authorization bills are working their way through the House and Senate. Many items have been included not requested by the Obama Administration or Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. This really is not surprising as Gates attempted to cut a lot very quickly. He spared no service cutting Air Force F-22 and C-17 aircraft, Navy VH-71 and destroyers, and Army vehicle and missile defense systems. Congress has pushed back on certain programs.

One that they are trying to keep alive is the VH-71 helicopter for use in transporting the President. This program has not only been unfunded in the President’s 2010 budget but Lockheed Martin has been told to stop work. The company and the Pentagon are negotiating termination costs.

The House Appropriation Defense sub-committee, though, included almost half a billion dollars to try and utilize the Increment One aircraft already procured. The program was structured with two increments of aircraft, the first being basic ones to be used to support testing and development. A larger buy in five or so years would have all the required equipment. To date the U.S. has invested about $3 billion in the program. The House wants to see if some use could be derived of the aircraft already delivered.

While the current fleet of VH-2 and VH-60 aircraft have served the President well they are somewhat dated. The VH-71 would have more modern survivability and communications equipment with greater range and lift. The strenuous requirements are what led to the programs cost and schedule growth. There will be more to come on this issue to say the least.

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