White House Chopper Program Won't Be Canceled, England Says

March 7th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: White House Chopper Program Won't Be Canceled, England Says

March 6, 2008 By Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg News
The program to build the VH-71 presidential helicopter won't be canceled even as costs incurred by Lockheed Martin Corp. to develop the most advanced version of the aircraft have grown by 67 percent, the U.S. Defense Department's No. 2 official said today.
“It has gone up in cost but there is no other alternative, so given it is needed for the president, we will continue to develop it,” Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England said today in an interview.
Lockheed won the contract to build the chopper in January 2005, and since then the $6.1 billion program has been beset with cost increases and disagreements between the company, the Navy and the White House Military Office over performance requirements. The chopper fleet that ferries the president has some aircraft that are 40 years old.
“There's not a lot of requirements you can cut back,” England said. “Whatever that bill is, we'll pay that bill but we will work to constrain the cost of the program.”
The House Armed Services Committee's tactical aircraft subcommittee is scheduled to review the program's cost and performance problems during a March 11 hearing.
Pentagon Undersecretary for Acquisition John Young told reporters March 4 that the cost estimate to develop the most advanced version of the chopper had grown to $7.5 billion from $4.5 billion. Costs for the first phase of an interim model due to be fielded by 2010 have increased 61 percent to $3.7 billion from $2.3 billion, he said.
The Marine Helicopter Squadron One that ferries the president now has 19 aircraft. The new model would carry 14 passengers, about four more than the current model. The advanced version would have new engines, cockpit electronics and defense equipment to improve protection and communications for the president and other dignitaries.
The current design is overweight so the performance of both versions “will likely fall short of required range and airspeed,” Charles McQueary, the Pentagon's top test official, said in a report published in January.
The Lockheed aircraft is based on the design of the EH101 helicopter produced by AgustaWestland, a unit of Finmeccanica SpA of Italy. Textron Inc.'s Bell Helicopter unit is a major subcontractor.

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