Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel
|AW101 undergoing VH-71 testing near the Lockheed facility in Owego, New York|
|Role||Executive transport helicopter|
Bell Helicopter (assembly)
|First flight||3 July 2007|
|Primary user||United States Marine Corps|
|Number built||9 (VH-71A)|
|Developed from||AgustaWestland AW101|
The Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel was a variant of the AgustaWestland AW101 (formerly EH101) that was being manufactured to replace the United States Marine Corps' Marine One U.S. Presidential transport fleet. Originally marketed for various competitions as the US101, it was developed and manufactured in the US by a consortium headed by Lockheed Martin, consisting of Lockheed Martin Systems Integration – Owego (LMSI), AgustaWestland and Bell Helicopter.
In January 2005, the US101 was selected for the VXX Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program, and was promptly re-designated as the VH-71. However, development was subject to delays, cost overruns, and engineering issues; Lockheed attributed much of these issues to unanticipated and extensive modifications being demanded by the government that had been absent from the request for proposal (RFP) issued. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2011 also recognised that a lack of flexibility and compromise on the part of the government had negatively impacted the programme. By late 2008, the cancellation of the VH-71 was looking increasingly likely.
In February 2009, President Barack Obama asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about placing the project on hold or canceling it because of its high cost: over $13 billion for the planned 28 helicopters. In June 2009, the U.S. Navy terminated the contract after spending about $4.4 billion and taking delivery of nine VH-71s. In the aftermath of the cancellation, the delivered helicopters were sold onto Canada for $164 million, where they were used as a source of spare parts for its fleet of AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopters.
US101 and VXX competition
The AgustaWestland AW101, initially designated as EH101, was originally developed and produced by EH Industries, which was a joint venture between the British Westland Helicopters and Italian Agusta companies; Westland merged with Agusta to form AgustaWestland in 2001. AgustaWestland held considerable interest in the export prospects of the AW101, including the prospects for an extensive overseas manufacturing consortium. On 23 July 2002, Lockheed Martin and AgustaWestland announced that they had signed a 10-year agreement to jointly market, manufacture and support a medium-lift helicopter, an AW101 derivative, in the United States. At the team, the team declared that the derivative, which was designated as the US101, would be "65% American". The companies envisaged the aircraft being adopted in three major roles; U.S. Air Force combat search and rescue, U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue, and U.S. Marine Corps executive transport.
In early 2002, the Lockheed-AgustaWestland partnership sought out other firms to participate in the proposed local manufacturing effort for the US101; in particular, the team pursued Bell Helicopters, which was at that time part of another EH101 consortium, offering the type in Canada. That same year, Rolls-Royce Holdings, who manufactured the EH101's RTM322, also sought out an American partner to locally produce the engine; Rolls-Royce also envisioned integrating US-specific technology into the engine and its potential use in powering the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. By August 2002, there were reports in the media, of various US aircraft manufacturers, including Bell, Boeing and Kaman Aerospace, that were holding discussions with the consortium and may potentially be selected as a subcontractor to perform the domestic assembly of the US101. Boeing showed persistent interest in joining the US101 consortium, as well as in alternate arrangements to produce the NHIndustries NH90 helicopter.
On 15 May 2003, AgustaWestland signed an agreement with Bell Helicopter to undertake final assembly of the US101 in the U.S. Under the pact, AgustaWestland would produce the main rotor blades and main fuselage sections at its Yeovil, UK, facility. The company would also manufacture other components, including the gearbox, at its Cascina Costa, Italy facility; this represents a work share of 36 per cent. The remaining 64 per cent work share was split between Lockheed Martin (31 per cent) and Bell Helicopter (27 per cent) and other firms (6 per cent).
In February 2002, the US Marine Corps commenced a study to identify potential replacement rotorcraft for the aging Sikorsky VH-3D presidential transport helicopters. On 18 December 2003, the United States Department of Defense issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the supply of 23 helicopters to be used as a replacement for the 11 VH-3Ds and 8 VH-60Ns of the Marine Corps' HMX-1 squadron, which performs the role of Presidential helicopter transportation; this requirement was given the designation of VXX, or the Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program. Two companies, AgustaWestland and Sikorsky Aircraft responded to the VXX RFP; additionally, that had been interest in a potential Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey-based bid, however the rotorcraft was deemed to be non-transportable by military airlift and thus unsuitable to qualify.
Sikorsky had proposed the VH-92, a variant of the H-92 Superhawk, in partnership with FlightSafety International, L-3 Communications, Northrop Grumman, Rockwell Collins, Vought Aircraft Industries, and GE-Aviation. During the bidding process, Sikorsky attacked the US101 for its foreign origins; in December 2004, Sikorsky VXX programme manager Nick Lappos derided the bid as: ""What is a socialist country and a socialist company going to teach us about competition?". The selection was originally to occur in April 2004, however programme officials decided to postpone their decision for a further eight months to conduct more analysis on the bids.
On 28 January 2005, the Department of Defense announced that it had selected the US101 as the winner. It has been speculated that the US101's three engines had been a decisive factor over the rivaling twin-engined VH-92. John Young, the USN's assistant secretary for acquisition technology and logistics, stated of the selection: "The Lockheed team probably started with a helicopter that needed less. They more closely met the requirements we had laid out, and that allowed them to table less work that had to be completed to get to the finish line and deliver a product". The US101 team was awarded a US$1.7 billion contract for the System Development and Demonstration phase. In July 2005, the US101 received the military designation VH-71 Kestrel.
Program problems and delays
Delays and engineering issues plagued the VH-71's development. By 2007, the estimated cost of developing and modifying the aircraft had risen by 40% to $2.4 billion and had passed the $4.2 billion expected for the production of the fleet. In March 2008, the program cost had risen and was projected to cost a total $11.2 billion, or about $400 million per helicopter.
During dialogue over the CSAR-X (in which the EH101 was LMSI's offering), the Air Force Source Selection Authority (SSA) stated the program's performance had been "unsatisfactory". In March 2007, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, upholding Sikorsky and Lockheed's protests against Boeing's HH-47, mentioned "LMSI had received a little confidence rating for past performance due to unsatisfactory performance under its current contract for the VH-71 Presidential helicopter, which was evaluated as the most highly relevant to this procurement." The SSA stated that LMSI had "show[n] that it could not reliably meet important schedule requirements and had difficulty in systems engineering flow-downs to their subcontractors." Lockheed responded that government insistence on extensive modifications, unanticipated in the RFP, as the source of cost overruns. A GAO report in 2011 concluded that the VH-71's development was not allowed flexibility or trade-offs considered by the customer.
In December 2007, DoD officials met with the White House Military Office to discuss the program's future; the Pentagon had apparently wanted to terminate the VH-71 due to setbacks, budget issues, and design problems. The White House overruled a decision to cancel; the program was effectively placed on hold while options were considered. In July 2008, the VH-71A (also called Increment 1) was to reach operating capability in 2010. The second phase of the development, VH-71B (Increment 2) was expected to start entering service in 2017.
In October 2008, while commenting on defense programs likely to be cut following the change in government, John Young, the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, stated that the VH-71 "is very high on that list". The rising cost of VH-71 program contrasted poorly with President Barack Obama's stance on curbing government spending; during a White House gathering in February 2009 President Obama commented that the procurement process had "gone amok and we are going to have to fix it." He additionally stated that "The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me." In March 2009 the projected total cost for the planned 28 VH-71s was over $13 billion. On 6 April 2009 the proposed Defense budget announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates had not included funding for the VH-71. On 1 June 2009, the U.S. Navy announced that the contract was officially canceled, and that remaining funds were to be reinvested in upgrades to the existing fleet of VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters. Nine VH-71s had been completed at time of the cancellation.
The aircraft's cancellation provoked commentators to speak out about its impact on future acquisition contracts with European businesses. The failure by the U.S. Department of Defense acquisition process as demonstrated by the VH-71 may scare away potential partners. Around March 2009, a coalition of lawmakers encouraged the Administration to continue a variation of the VH-71 program. A letter issued by several members of Congress urged the President to support a VH-71 program. On 22 July 2009, the House Appropriations Committee approved $485 million to make five VH-71As operational.
Options and restructuring
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimated that shutting down VH-71 production, upgrading the existing fleet, and later implementing a successor program would cost $14–$21 billion. It was reported not only that a new fleet would not be available until 2024 (at which point the existing helicopters would have remained in service while being over 50 years old), but that terminating the existing program would waste more than $3 billion in sunk VH-71 costs. Following the President’s decision to terminate the program a variety of lawmakers, think tanks and media outlets publicly concluded it would be more cost effective and less time consuming to continue with a variation of the existing VH-71 program.
In 2009, the CRS proposed four options: Option 1 was to continue the VH-71 program with Increment I and II versions; the additional cost was estimated at $10 billion and the entry into service date was 2019. Option 2 was to restructure the program to provide 23 Increment I aircraft; at an additional cost of $6.4 billion and would be operational by 2012. Option 3 was a restructure to provide 19 Increment I aircraft to replace the current fleet; the additional cost for this option was estimated at $5.6 billion and the entry into service by 2012. The last option was to upgrade and extend life of current fleet at a cost of $1.4 billion; however this would not meet the standards required for future presidential helicopters, and would require replacement sooner.
In addition to the cost of a new procurement program, industry officials stated that to merely extend the operating life of the current fleet is a risky choice because it is both less secure and costly to maintain. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, including Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) have been outspoken critics of the Pentagon in the matter—Bartlett recently claiming that "they had this conversation outside the partnership and we regret that." Loren Thompson, an analyst for the Lexington Institute, stated "I do not believe that the story of VH-71 is over... Secretary Gates has not made a convincing case for terminating the program, and there is no alternative helicopter that can satisfy range and payload requirements while still landing on the White House lawn."
On 19 December 2009, President Obama signed a joint House and Senate Defense Appropriation Bill for FY 2010, which includes $130 million funding for the Marine One program: $100 million to recoup technologies developed under the VH-71 Kestrel program, and $30 million for the Navy's initial studies on a new VH-XX program. In February 2010, the Navy issued a request for information to the aviation industry. In April 2010, Lockheed Martin announced they would team with Sikorsky in offering the Sikorsky S-92 instead of the VH-71. In June 2010, Boeing announced it was considering a U.S.-built licensed version of the AgustaWestland AW101 for the renewed VXX program as well as the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey and Boeing CH-47 Chinook.
In June 2011, nine VH-71s were purchased for $164 million by Canada for use as spare parts for its fleet of AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue helicopter, which is also based upon the AW101. The transferred VH-71s were stripped of sensitive parts, a total of seven remained in an airworthy condition. In 2013, media reports stated Canada is studying whether up to four of the VH-71s can be certified for operational use; manufacturer AgustaWestland has openly stated their support for the regeneration initiative.
The first test VH-71A, Test Vehicle #2 (TV-2), made its initial flight on 3 July 2007 at AgustaWestland's facility in Yeovil in the UK. Lockheed Martin also used an EH101, designated TV-1, for initial testing in the United States; these tests included landing on the lawn of the White House.
The first production VH-71A, Pilot Production #1 (PP-1), made its maiden flight on 22 September 2008 from Yeovil. The US Air Force transported the helicopter in a C-17 Globemaster III to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland for further testing. The first production VH-71 joined the test program at NAS Patuxent River, beginning ground testing in early December 2008.
- The initial production VH-71 aircraft or Increment one of the presidential helicopter replacement program, designed to meet an urgent need for new helicopters.
- Increment two was to provide 23 operational helicopters with increased range, and upgraded navigation and communications systems that fulfill White House requirements to maintain continuity of government and allow the president to carry out the duties of the office.
The US101 is also competing for two USAF contracts, the 141-aircraft Combat Search and Rescue Replacement (CSAR-X) project (originally won by the Boeing HH-47 on 10 November 2006, but now subject to a second procurement competition), and the 70-aircraft Common Vertical Lift Support Program (CVLSP).
Specifications with an asterisk (*) next to them are specifically for the VH-71. All others are for AW101.
- Crew: 4
- Capacity: 14 seated troops*
- Length: 64 ft 1 in (19.53 m)
- Rotor diameter: 61 ft (18.59 m)
- Height: 21 ft 8¾ in (6.62 m)
- Disc area: 2,992.5 ft² (271.51 m²)
- Empty weight: 23,149 lb (10,500 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 34,392 lb (15,600 kg)
- Powerplant: 3× General Electric CT7-8E turboshafts, 2,520 shp (1,879 kW) (take-off power) each
- Never exceed speed: 167 knots (192 mph, 309 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 150 knots (167 mph, 278 km/h)
- Range: 863 mi (1,389 km)
- Service ceiling: 15,010 ft (4,575 m)
- Rate of climb: 2,010 ft/min (10.2 m/s)
- Disc loading: 11.0 lb/ft² (53.8 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 0.174 shp/lb (0.2849 kW/kg)
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- Baker, Peter. "Cost Nearly Doubles For Marine One Fleet".[permanent dead link] Washington Post, 17 March 2008.
- "Rotorcraft Report: AgustaWestland Expects Customer BA609 at Show by 2011". Rotor & Wing. Paris Air Show: Access Intelligence, LLC. 1 August 2007.
The company re-branded its medium-lift EH101 transport the AW101 to reflect...the full integration of its Agusta and Westland...
- "Lockheed Martin and AgustaWestland Announce Long-term Agreement for US101 Helicopter". Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Lockheed Martin, 23 July 2002.
- "AgustaWestland seals 10-year US101 deal with Lockheed Martin." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 24 July 2002.
- "Manufacturers seek US101 partner." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 19 February 2002.
- "Rolls-Royce considers US sourcing for helicopter engine." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 24 July 2002.
- Lewis, Paul. "US Army weighs engine options." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 20 August 2002.
- Lewis, Paul. "US101 programme seeks local subcontractor bids." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 6 August 2002.
- Lewis, Paul. "Wake-up call." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 4 February 2003.
- Lewis, Paul. "Bell reviews helicopter portfolio." Archived 27 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 4 February 2003.
- Lewis, Paul. "Boeing renews interest in US EH101 production deal." Archived 27 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 26 November 2002.
- Lewis, Paul. "Boeing and EADS in helicopter talks." Archived 27 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 20 August 2002.
- "AgustaWestland Selects Bell Helicopter as Airframe Manufacturer for US101 Production". Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Lockheed Martin, 15 May 2003.
- Lewis, Paul. "Bell set to complete US101 team line-up." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 13 May 2003.
- "US101 Blows Away Sikorsky in $6.1 Billion VXX Competition", Air Forces Monthly.
- Lewis, Paul. "Rivals exchange blows in VXX helicopter battle." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 20 May 2003.
- "USAF/USMC look for replacement rotorcraft." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 19 February 2002.
- "VXX Selection Delayed" Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Aviation Today, 1 May 2004.
- Gertler 2009, p. 2.
- "Lockheed Martin to Build New Presidential Helicopter" Archived 30 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. U.S. Department of Defense, 28 January 2005.
- Trimble, Stephen. "Offers in to supply US presidential helicopter." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 6 January 2004.
- "VH-92 team is unveiled." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 13 January 2004.
- "Sikorsky fights back with launch of Superhawk." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 17 June 2003.
- Trimble, Stephen. "Sikorsky attacks US101 credentials." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 14 December 2004.
- "Rivals for US VXX presidential helicopter race move forward." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 4 May 2004.
- "DoD Special Briefing on Award of Presidential Helicopter Contract" Archived 1 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine.. DoD, 28 January 2005.
- Trimble, Stephen. "US101 snatches presidential prize." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 1 February 2005.
- "VH-71 Managers Thrift-Minded" Archived 30 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Rotor & Wing via aviationtoday.com, 1 March 2009.
- Trimble, Stephen. "Marine wonder." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 8 February 2005.
- Trimble, Stephen. "Opening doors for the EH101." Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Flight International, 8 February 2005.
- "US101 (VH-71A) All Weather Medium Lift Military Helicopter" Archived 19 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Airforce-technology.com. Retrieved: 28 June 2010.[unreliable source?]
- Huber, Mark. "Development hurdles ahead for future presidential helicopter" Archived 13 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. AINonline, 28 August 2007.
- Warwick, Graham. "Presidential Helicopter Costs Soar" Archived 6 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Flight International, 22 May 2007.
- "Capitol Hill expected to weigh in on embattled VH-71" Archived 15 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Aerospace Daily and Defense Report, 17 March 2008.
- "B-299145.4: Sikorsky Aircraft Company; Lockheed Martin Systems Integration‑Owego‑‑Request for Reconsideration" Archived 19 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Government Accountability Office, 29 March 2007.
- Fabey, Michael. "Rotorcraft Report: VH-71 Program Following Right Course: GAO" Archived 15 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Aviation Week, 4 May 2011.
- "VH-71 Presidential Helicopter on Hold".[dead link] Defense News, 14 December 2007.
- O'Keeffe, Niall. "VH-71A to gain obtain operational capability in 2010" Archived 27 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Flight International, 18 July 2008.
- "Next Administration to Face Major Decision in First Months on Key Weapons Programs".(subscription required) InsideDefense, 31 October 2008.
- "President Publicly Reconsiders Marine One" Archived 27 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Aviation Week, 24 February 2009.
- "Gibbs: Obama puts new presidential helicopters on hold" Archived 24 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. CNN, 24 February 2009.
- "Defence companies: In the line of fire" Archived 23 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine.. The Economist, 19 March 2009.
- "Finmeccanica says no impact from VH-71 cancellation". Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Reuters, 7 April 2009.
- Pugliese, David (8 November 2010). "$400M Choppers May Be Sold For Parts". Defense News. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
- "The VH-71 and the Industrial Base" Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Accessed: 25 April 2011.
- "Letter from Congress of the United States to President Obama" Archived 15 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Congress of the United States, 16 March 2009.
- Matthews, William. "F-22 may face obstacle on House floor" Archived 15 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. AirForces Times, 22 July 2009.
- Gertler 2009, pp. 12, 14-15.
- Chavanne, Bettina H. "Objections to VH-71 Cancellation Grow Louder".(subscription required) Aviation Week's DTI, 5 June 2009.
- Gertler 2009, pp 18-21.
- "Objections to VH-71 Cancellation Grow Louder" Archived 15 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Aviation Week, 5 June 2009.
- Kington, Tom. "Finmeccanica Regroups in U.S."[dead link] Defense News, 25 May 2009.
- "USA: Obama Approves Defense Budget 2010". Archived 7 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Avio News, 22 December 2009.
- Trimble, Stephen. "New VXX competition reveals changes for US presidential helicopter" Archived 6 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Flight International, 18 February 2010.
- "Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin Announce Teaming Agreement to Compete for the VXX Presidential Helicopter Program" Archived 12 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Lockheed Martin.
- Cavas, Christopher P. "Former Competitors Join Forces for Helo Program"[permanent dead link]. Defense News, 19 April 2010.
- Fein, Geoff. "Bell-Boeing V-22 Latest Entry For Navy's Presidential Helo RFI".(subscription required) Defense Daily, 21 April 2010.
- Trimble, Stephen (6 June 2010). "Boeing says AW101 one of its three options for VXX". Washington, DC: Flight International. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
- Pugliese, David (16 June 2011). "Obama's choppers purchased for parts for Cormorants". Victoria Times Colonist. Archived from the original on 30 June 2011.
- "Barack Obama's discarded helicopters could fly in Canada's air force". Toronto Star. 5 May 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
- "MacKay asks for review of used U.S. choppers for search-and-rescue fleet". CTV News. 6 May 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
- Pugliese, David. "RCAF looks at former presidential helicopters for search and rescue." Archived 5 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Ottawa Citizen, 3 June 2015.
- Warwick, Graham. "First VH-71 presidential helicopter flies" Archived 8 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine.. Flight Global, 5 July 2007.
- "First VH-71 Presidential Helicopter Production Aircraft Takes Flight" Archived 13 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine.. Lockheed Martin, 22 September 2008.
- "First Production VH-71 Presidential Helicopter Joins Test Program" Archived 20 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine.. Lockheed Martin & AgustaWestland North America, 2 December 2008.
- Jackson 2003, pp. 233–238.
- "Agusta Westland" (PDF). Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- "Costs soar for new Marine One fleet". Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- Gertler, Jeremiah. "VH-71/VXX Presidential Helicopter Program: Background and Issues for Congress", RS22103. Congressional Research Service, 22 December 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel.|
- VH-71 Kestrel / Marine One page on GlobalSecurity.org
- "Trouble On The Takeoff" Newsweek, 26 November 2007.
- "Trouble On Air Obama". New York Times, 14 May 2009.