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Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin Partner up, Teaming Agreement seeks to secure VXX contract

By Ron Whitney - It would appear that the project to replace the aging fleet of Presidential helicopters might not be quite as dead as previously thought. Announcing their "teaming agreement" on April 19, 2010 Sikorsky will take the lead as prime contractor, with Lockheed taking on the role of major sub-systems supplier. Sikorsky has been the prime provider of Presidential helicopters for over 50 years.

Replacing the aging fleet of VH-3D helicopters has been a priority of the Department of the Navy. A priority that has given them fits for nearly a dozen years. In February of 2005, the Department selected the team of Agusta Westland/Lockheed/Bell Helicopter Textron as the successful bidder to replace the President’s medium lift helicopter fleet with the US101, a redesignated version of the EH101. The aircraft eventually carried the designation of the VH-71.

Contract modifications, design changes, reengineering, and runaway cost increases led to the cancellation of the VH-71 program shortly after the Obama administration took office. Estimated costs of the VH-71 program, upon its cancellation, were around $11.2 billion U.S. dollars.

"We’re thrilled to team with Lockheed Martin to provide taxpayers and the U.S. government with a common sense solution for the next presidential aircraft both in terms of economy and technology," said Scott Starrett, president of Sikorsky Military Systems. "For nearly four decades, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin have teamed successfully to produce Naval Hawk™ helicopters, so we have a proven and formidable track record as a team."

"Our VXX teaming agreement builds on an existing and highly successful 38-year relationship between Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky," said Dan Spoor, Aviation Systems vice president at Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors in Owego, N.Y. "Formally combining Sikorsky’s success building and supporting the Marine One fleet with our understanding of the systems integration requirements will allow our team to offer a low-risk transport solution to the Office of the President."

Putting the Commercial Off the Shelf (COS) concept to the test, Sikorsky will offer the H-92Ô as the main platform, and Lockheed Martin will handle the subsystem package. There has been no formal announcement as to the percentage of system components that will be produced in the US. Nor what mix of components will be provided by foreign vendors.

Political Climate

In 2005, during the Bush administration, the political theme was to be more "inclusive" of our overseas friends. Some have suggested that the selection of the Agusta/Westland entrant was a nod to our British friends, a "thank you" of sorts for their strong support of Bush’s goals in the mid east. Musings from Capital Hill suggest that the effort to be so "inclusive" may be waning. "There is definitely a strong movement to keep more American taxpayer’s dollars here at home where they can support American jobs", stated a congressional aide who asked not to be identified." "Our representatives have a difficult enough time as it stands explaining all the spending, without it sending jobs overseas."

In addition to the VXX teaming agreement, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore other joint business ventures.

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