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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: VH-71 Team Busts Weight Target, Loses Range

MILITARY/VIP

The efforts of Lockheed Martin, AgustaWestland, and Bell Helicopter to build the next U.S. presidential helicopter haven’t been getting good press lately, at least not from the U.S. General Accountability Office.

First, the GAO revealed one reason the U.S. Air Force didn’t pick the EH101 variant pitched by the same team for its next-generation combat search-and-rescue helicopter was "unsatisfactory performance under its current contract for the VH-71." That’s what the U.S. Navy has designated the next presidential helicopter, which is also based on the EH101 and to be flown by the Marine Corps.

In March, the GAO reported the Navy and the contractor team have reduced the projected range for the first increment of five VH-71s because the aircraft is 1,200 lb over the original weight specs.

Program officials are "working to stabilize the weight of the aircraft." The GAO said program officials reported the early aircraft "will have a limited service life" and their design may not be upgradable.

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