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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Rotor & Wing: Rotorcraft Report: VH-71 Delays Prod USMC to Upgrade Current Fleet

MILITARY | VIP/HEAD OF STATE

The U.S. Marine Corps is looking to boost the reliability of its presidential helicopter fleet.

The Corps, whose Marine Helicopter Sqdn. One (HMX-1) provides rotary-wing support for the White House, is concerned that delays in fielding the next-generation presidential transport will force the existing fleet to fly longer.

White House officials pressed for acquisition of a new helicopter after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 emphasized the need for the president to move farther and faster and carry more people and communications capability with him in an emergency. HMX-1 serves the White House with Sikorsky Aircraft VH-3Ds and VH-60Ns.

But development of the US101, based on AgustaWestland’s AW101, has been beset by delays. Officials of Lockheed Martin Systems Integration, prime contractor of the US101 team, and the Naval Air Systems Command struggled for much of last year to restructure the VH-71 program.

The deputy Marine commandant for programs and resources, Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, told our sister publication, Defense Daily, the measures being considered include "Carson blades." Carson Helicopter developed those composite blades, made by Ducommun Aerostructures, to boost performance of its firefighting H-3 Sea Kings. The blades help boost the H-3’s payload 2,500-lb. and its airspeed 15 kt.

"There remains a fleet of aircraft that can fly the president and the others that require executive lift in a safe and expeditious manner," he said.

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