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VH-71 Kestrel / Marine One

The VH-71 contract was terminated on 1 June 2009. Due to increased cost and schedule growth the Secretary of Defense and USD (AT&L) directed cancellation of the current VH-71 program. President Barack Obama said he ordered a review of plans to replace the fleet of decades-old presidential helicopters at a cost of about $11 billion. Mr. Obama made the announcement after his one-time presidential rival, Arizona Senator John McCain, questioned the need for the costly program when the government is trying to curb spending. The president responded that he thinks his current helicopter seems "perfectly adequate," and he said the costly military program is "an example of the procurement process gone amok."

The VH-71 program was the replacement helicopter for the VH-3D and VH-60N. In order for the VH-71 to be available to most effectively assume Presidential vertical lift mission by FY10, two Increments were to be developed. Increment 1 was to provide an initial limited capability to fulfill the immediate need Presidential lift requirement. Three (3) test article aircraft, system design and development (SDD) efforts, maintenance trainers, and associated logistics were initiated in 2005 for Increment 1. Included in the SDD contract were five (5) Increment 1 pilot production aircraft to support Initial Operational Capability (IOC). Increment 2 was to be developed to complete all of the Presidential support requirements. Two test articles were to be procured in FY09 to accommodate air vehicle structural differences between Increment 1 and 2 (main gear box, drive train, engines, tail unit and main rotor blades). The second test vehicle was to be procured instead of pursuing the planned modifications to one of the Increment 1 test vehicles due to the extent of the air vehicle structural differences.

The total acquisition costs for the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter replacement program were projected to increase from $6.5 billion to $11.2 billion. The FY2009 budget request included $1,047.8 million in PE 64273N for continued development of the executive helicopter, VH-71A. The VH-71A program is intended to provide the replacement helicopter for transportation of the President and Vice President of the United States, heads of state, and other dignitaries. The FY2009 House report (H. Rept. 110-652) observed that the reported cost increases in the program were sufficient to exceed the 25 percent unit cost increase that would invoke the certification requirements levied by section 2433 (e)(2)(A) of title 10, United States Code, commonly referred to as a "Nunn-McCurdy Breach." The House report directed the Secretary of Defense to submit an analysis of potential advantages and disadvantages of conducting a re-competition of the program when the Secretary submits that certification.

The Senate report (S. Rept. 110-335) directed the Secretary of the Navy to submit a VH-71A report to the congressional defense committees outlining VH-71A program: (1) performance requirements; (2) revised cost estimates; (3) causes for cost growth; (4) detailed breakout of cost growth related to underestimated requirements; and (5) actions being implemented to reduce and control development and production costs.

The Senate report would also prohibit the Secretary from obligating fiscal year 2009 funds for VH-71A Executive Helicopter Development (PE 64273N) for Increment Two efforts until: (1) the Defense Department completes VH-71A unit cost reporting requirements as prescribed by section 2433 of title 10, United States Code; and (2) the Secretary of the Navy submits the VH-71A report described above to the congressional defense committees. Additionally, the Senate report directed the Secretary to identify alternatives for extending the service life of Increment One aircraft and increasing their utility in the effort to provide greater return on this investment.

The agreement directs the Secretary to submit the reports requested in both the House and Senate reports, removes the prohibition on obligating any fiscal year 2009 funding, and directed the Secretary not to restructure the existing VH-71 contract until the completion of the Nunn-McCurdy certification process.

The Navy planned to acquire a fleet of 23 operational helicopters to serve as a safe and secure "Oval Office in the Sky" for future Presidents. On 28 January 2005 the Department of Defense announced that the team led by Lockheed Martin Systems Integration, Owego, New York, had been selected to build the new presidential helicopter (VXX) based on its US101 medium lift helicopter. This $1.7 billion, cost plus award fee contract would launch the VXX program's system development and demonstration phase during which the program would integrate a "system of systems" with a modern, in-production aircraft to provide the president with safe and reliable helicopter transportation.

Team US101, which combined the collective capabilities of Lockheed Martin, Agusta-Westland and Bell Helicopter Textron, was formed to develop an American variant of Agusta-Westland's successful EH101 multimission helicopter for the U.S. marketplace. The US101 team led by Lockheed Martin was committed to building the aircraft in America, sourcing more than 65 percent of the components from American suppliers. Built by Bell Helicopter in Texas, integrated by Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in New York, powered by GE Aircraft Engines in Massachusetts, and supplied by more than 200 American companies across 41 states, including some of America's leading aerospace companies such as General Electric, ITT, Northrop Grumman, Kaman Aerospace and Palomar Products.

The Presidential Helicopter Replacement (VH-71) was a dual-piloted, multi-engine vertical take-off and landing aircraft that would bring the latest vertical lift and command and control communication technology to the primary helicopter platform employed by HMX-1. The VH-71 would be capable of operating day or night, in adverse weather worldwide, in climates including arctic, desert, mountainous, littoral, and tropical.

Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) is required to provide safe and timely transportation for the President and Vice President of the United States, heads of state and others as directed by the White House Military Office (WHMO). Currently two Type, Model, Series (TMS) aircraft are used by HMX-1 for the Presidential support mission, the VH-3D and the VH-60N. The VH-71 program provides the replacement helicopter for the VH-3D and VH-60N. The future "Marine One" would be one of the world's most technologically advanced helicopters, designed to safely and reliably transport the president, vice president, heads of state and other official parties both at home and abroad with mobile "oval office in the sky" capabilities.

In order for the VH-71 to be available to most effectively assume Presidential vertical lift mission by FY10, two Increments were being developed. FY09 funds were adjusted due to Increment Two execution associated with concurrency with Increment One development, design, and production. Funding adjustments would be required in FY10 and beyond to extend SDD allowing for reduced risk associated with schedule and concurrency of development. The program was in the process of reassessing the VH-71 program. Assessment recommendations would be forwarded to adjust, as required, fiscal years beyond FY09 during the FY10 budget process.

Project 3058, Increment One: VH-71 Increment One would provide an initial limited capability to fulfill the immediate Presidential lift requirement. Three test article aircraft, system design and development (SDD) efforts, maintenance trainers, and associated logistics were initiated in 2005 for Increment One. Included in the SDD contract were five Increment One pilot production aircraft to support Initial Operational Capability (IOC). A fatigue test article was procured in FY09 to extend the service life of Increment One aircraft beyond 1500 fight hours. Adjustments would be required for funding beyond FY09 to extend SDD allowing for the completion of Increment One. Funding adjustments would be required in FY10 and beyond to extend SDD allowing for reduced risk associated with schedule and concurrency of development. FY08 execution was augmented by $465.5M of FY 2007 funds carried over to FY08. Total funding planned for execution in FY08 was $690.9M.

Project 3065, Increment Two: VH-71 Increment Two would be developed to complete all of the Presidential support requirements. Two test articles would be procured in FY09 to accommodate air vehicle structural differences between Increment 1 and 2 (main gear box, drive train, engines, tail unit and main rotor blades). The second test vehicle was being procured instead of modifying one of the Increment 1 test vehicles due to the extent of the air vehicle structural differences. Funding adjustments would be required in FY10 and beyond to extend SDD allowing for reduced risk associated with schedule and concurrency of development.

In January 2005, the VH-71 program committed to the production of five aircraft without a final design or fully defined production processes. The program's August 2006 design review was held ten months later than planned and did not meet the Navy's criteria for a successful system-level review. An additional design review was planned for February 2007. In August 2006, 87 percent of the program's drawings were releasable to manufacturing with the remaining drawings primarily related to installation.

On June 12, 2006 Lockheed Martin executives were joined by members of the US Navy and Marine Corps, New York congressional delegation, and state and local elected officials, to formally open the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter Integration Facility in Owego, New York. The new 176,000-square-foot facility featured aircraft integration hangars, program management and engineering office space, systems integration laboratories, aircraft parts storage, and maintenance and helicopter paint facilities. The complex also included a new helicopter flight operations area.

In the Air Force CSAR-X competition in late 2006, LMSI received a past performance rating of little confidence (indicating that a substantial doubt existed that the offeror would successfully perform the required effort) due to unsatisfactory performance under its current contract to design, develop and field the VH-71 Presidential helicopter, a contract evaluated as highly relevant to that procurement. The Air Force considered the VH-71 contract to be the most "highly relevant" contract for LMSI, because the VH-71 helicopter was based on the same helicopter (EH101) as LMSI's proposed CSAR-X helicopter, and the VH-71 contract effort involved a similar teaming arrangement with Agusta-Westland. The SSA noted that LMSI had shown under the VH-71 contract that it "could not reliably meet important schedule requirements and had difficulty in systems engineering flow-downs to their subcontractors," and cited LMSI's poor performance as one of the principal bases for his determination that, not withstanding its lower evaluated cost/price, LMSI's proposal nevertheless did not represent the best value.

As of early-2007 GAO found that this design might not be useable to meet increment two performance requirements. The range requirement in the prime contract was reduced because the estimated weight of the aircraft was over 1,200 pounds more than the original limit. The program was reassessing the requirements for increment two and considering cost, schedule, and performance trade-offs because the current program might not be executable. Concurrency in development, design, and production continued to put the program at risk for cost growth and schedule delays.

The program obtained customer agreement to reduce the range requirement in the prime contract and as of early 2007 was working to stabilize the weight of the aircraft. The program also obtained customer agreement to defer several other requirements to increment two, including those related to the auxiliary power unit and rotor track and balance technology. Concurrency in development, design, and production continued to drive the risk of cost growth and schedule delays on the program. Design development would continue through low-rate initial production as the program concurrently develops its manufacturing processes, increasing the likelihood that components being procured would be reworked to meet the final design.

The five increment one aircraft would have a limited service life and its design had the potential to be unusable for increment two. Changes to the main gear box, drive train, engines, tail unit, and main rotor blades were required to meet increment two performance requirements. Program officials anticipated that five additional increment two aircraft would be produced to support full operational capability in 2015 rather than modifying increment one aircraft to the increment two configuration.

On 3 July 2007 the VH-71 helicopter completed its first flight at Agusta-Westland's facility in Yeovil, UK, marking a significant milestone in the development of the United States' presidential aircraft. The designated test vehicle #2, built under contract to the US Navy, was assembled and prepared at an Agusta-Westland facility. It was the first test aircraft built specifically for the VH-71 presidential helicopters program. During the 40-minute flight, the Agusta-Westland chief test pilot, Don Maclaine, and senior test pilot, Dick Trueman, performed general aircraft handling checks, tested flight characteristics at varying speeds up to 156 mph and evaluated the on-board avionics systems.

The program was originally estimated to cost $6.1 billion. The program initially planned to procure 23 VH-71 operational aircraft and three test aircraft at an expected per unit cost of approximately $82 million per aircraft (initial increments) and approximately $110 million per aircraft in the final configuration. By July 2007 the overall program cost was $6.2 billion, with research and development cost of $3,703 million and procurement cost $2,332 million for 28 helicopters, yielding a $270 million unit cost. In March 2008 Defense Department Undersecretary for Acquisition John Young told reporters that the cost estimate for the new helicopter had grown to $7.5 billion. On 17 March 2008 the Washington Post reported that the Pentagon had confirmed that the cost of the fleet of 28 new helicopters had increased from $6.1 billion when the contract was signed in 2005 to $11.2 billion, with unit cost growing to cost $400 million.

Lockheed missed a key deadline in September 2007 when it failed to deliver a proposal for extending the second increment. In a draft program budget decision issued in the Fall of 2008, Pentagon officials had proposed a five-year delay in the initial operational capability of the second increment of VH-71s, shifting production from FY09 to FY14.

The Conference Report on H.R. 1585, National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2008 -- (House of Representatives - December 06, 2007) addressed the VH-71 program. The House bill contained a provision (sec. 123) that would prevent any obligation or expenditure of funds from Aircraft Procurement, Navy for final assembly of more than five VH-71 presidential transport helicopters, unless final assembly of those helicopters would be carried out in the United States. The Senate amendment contained no similar provision. The House receded. The conferees supported the current program of record, in which the Navy intended to assemble no more than five VH-71 presidential helicopters outside the United States. The conferees directed that, before making any decision to change the location of final assembly for helicopters beyond the first five in the VH-71 acquisition strategy, the Secretary of Defense provide at least a 60-day notice to the congressional defense committees before implementing any such change. The conferees expect that the current acquisition strategy program of record would remain in place absent an extraordinary circumstance.

In December 2007 the US Navy temporarily halted "Increment 2" development of the VH-71 Marine One and was reevaluating available options. In January 2008 the Navy said in a statement "The VH-71 program is currently restructuring the Increment 2 program. Cost and schedule impacts will not be fully known until our assessment is complete, thoroughly vetted and approved by Department of Defense leadership. Any information regarding cost and schedule is pre-decisional in nature. Once we have an approved schedule, it will continue to be event-driven and one that places the president in a safe and fully tested platform."

Defense Department under-secretary John Young acknowledged "The program has encountered challenges in seeking to meet all the requirements within the budget. While the requirements have not changed, the detailed work on helicopter development and integration has identified technical challenges in meeting the requirements within the planned budget and schedule. In December, as a result of these technical challenges, the Defense Department issued a stop-work order for the Increment 2 design."

In February 2008 Rep. Rosa DeLauro and 10 other lawmakers wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging him to rebid the contract for the Marine One helicopter program, citing reports of cost overruns. DeLauro said the program should be rebid, allowing the rejected Sikorsky's proposal, the VH-92, back in the running. "The American taxpayer should no longer be forced to shoulder the cost of Lockheed Martin's inexperience with building helicopters from the ground up. ...Coupled with the thousands of requirement changes, this official acknowledgement of the significant cost overruns for the VH-71 presidential helicopter program demonstrates why the Defense Department needs to rebid this contract for what is in essence an entirely new helicopter."

A March 2008 assessment by the GAO noted that the VH-71 program's two Increment I critical technologies, the Communication and Subsystem Processing Embedded Resource Communication Controller (CASPER) and Cockpit Control Display (CCD), were approaching maturity when the program began development and committed to production in January 2005. The program office reported to the GAO for the assessment that the designation of these technologies as critical was erroneous because these systems presented integration, not maturity, risks. The CCD was mature. However, the CASPER had not been demonstrated in a realistic environment. According to a program official, the CASPER had only been tested in a lab and had not been subjected to the movements and vibrations it would experience during flight.

The VH-71 program did not expect to identify any critical technologies for Increment II. However, the program office was tracking three items, an advanced blade design, voice-over Internet protocol security, and the automatic flight computer system, because of potential technology maturity concerns. According to the program office, these items were still in the early stages of development, but were based on existing technologies or systems. For example, the basic technology of the advanced blade design was fielded on another helicopter, but the rotor disc was being increased in size from 45 feet to 64 feet, a change that could pose potential technology issues.

In reponse to the GAO report, the Navy stated that the VH-71 Increment I program was executing an accelerated schedule driven by an urgent White House need to replace existing aging assets. Concurrency in development, design, and production to meet the accelerated schedule was acknowledged as high risk and was part of the program's approved acquisition strategy. The Navy said that program mitigation plans included conducting performance trade-offs by deferring Increment I requirements to Increment II with customer agreement. Performance trade-offs had been made, and an assessment of these trades along with program impacts on Increment II cost and schedule was ongoing as of March 2008. According to the Navy, the concurrency described in the GAO assessment of Increment I design, testing, and production would be significantly reduced and/or removed in the revised Increment II program, which would follow a more typical acquisition approach.

Kestrel Nomenclature

The American kestrel was one of the most common and colorful birds of prey in North America. Because of its small size and colorful plumage, it can easily be mistaken for a songbird as it sits atop a utility pole or wire. However, once witnessed hovering over an open field in search of prey, the kestrel's predatory nature becomes apparent. A member of the falcon family, the American kestrel is closely related to the peregrine falcon and merlin. The bird is often referred to as the sparrow hawk because of its small size. Its scientific name, Falco sparverius, holds the Latin meaning, "falcon of the sparrows." Although its scientific name and the commonly used name "sparrow hawk" imply that the kestrel feeds exclusively on small birds, the majority of the kestrel's diet consists of insects and small mammals. As is the case with many beneficial predator species, the kestrel's value lies in the role it plays in keeping insect and small rodent populations in check.

The British-built Kestrel was designed with vertical/short takeoff and landing capabilities, making it possible to operate from grass or semi-prepared surfaces offering great operational flexibility. Four adjustable exhaust nozzles beneath the wing roots could be rotated to provide thrust for vertical, backward or hovering flight as well as conventional forward movement. Six of these trial aircraft were later delivered to the United States where, as XV-6As, they underwent additional testing of V/STOL fighter techniques. An improved version, known as the Harrier, became the world's first operational V/STOL fighter when it entered Royal Air Force service in 1969.

The TG-10C Kestrel (Blanik L-13AC) is a conventional two-place tandem sailplane. It is used by the 94 FTS for specialized upgrade training to include spin and aerobatic training. Competition aerobatics are flown at the regional and national level in the TG-10C. The TG-10C is one of the world's most common initial soaring trainers.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:39:14 ZULU