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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NAVAIR Sets Ball Rolling (Again) for Presidential Helicopter (VXX) Replacement

By Andrew Drwiega, Military Editor

The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has signaled the beginning of a new race to supply the next Presidential helicopter. The release by the Program Office (PMA-274) on Nov. 23, 2012, of draft request for proposal (RFP) for the Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program (VXX) contract had been expected and is likely to be followed by a formal RFP around mid-FY13, according to the NAVAIR advisory notice.

An industry day will be held at Patuxent River in Maryland during the week beginning December 10. It will provide industry attendees with a status update of the VXX program, together with updated requirements and a timeline for the competition. The new VXX helicopters will replace the old Sikorsky VH-3D and VH-60N aircraft currently in operation with Marine Helicopter Squadron One.

The Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland team won the last Presidential Helicopter competition with the US101 (VH-71 Kestral) in January 2005, beating Sikorsky’s S-92 Superhawk. The budget—originally set at $1.7 billion—was blown away by cost overruns that exceeded $3 billion over four years thanks to continual additions and alterations made to the original requirement. Nine US101s were actually built by the termination of the order in June 2009—four test vehicles followed by a further five aircraft. The total order envisaged was for 23 helicopters.

The VXX requirement calls for: “a survivable and dependable worldwide transportation capability and enables the strategic information superiority necessary to execute the duties of the President as the Commander-in-Chief, Chief Executive, and Head of State. The VXX will provide a comprehensive and secure communications capability to ensure connectivity between the President and U.S. government agencies or foreign governments, throughout the threat spectrum, regardless of location. The VXX acquisition strategy is based on the integration of mature subsystems into an existing air vehicle.”

The NAVAIR statement further identifies that proposals should be built around “an existing, in-production helicopter platform.” It continues: “It is the government’s desire to hold development to an absolute minimum on the VXX program and focus the program effort on integration of mature subsystems on a mature platform. While minor changes to the platform to accommodate integration of subsystems are inevitable, change to major components such as drive train, rotors, engines and basic structure is highly discouraged. In keeping with this approach, the offerors will be encouraged to not propose any design elements that contain immature technology or that might be deemed Critical Technology Elements (CTEs).”
Related: VIP/Head of State News

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