By Geoff Fein
A Bell Helicopter Textron [TXT]-Boeing [BA] team developing the V-22 is the latest entry to propose a response to the Navy’s VXX presidential helicopter request for information (RFI).
Meanwhile, at industry request, the Navy has granted a 60-day extension of the RFI response deadline for VXX until mid-June, according to Cmdr. Victor Chen, a Navy spokesman.
"The Bell Helicopter-Boeing program office is preparing a response to the RFI request with a VV-22 solution," Tom Dolney, a Bell spokesman, told Defense Daily yesterday.
AgustaWestland, which had originally partnered with Lockheed Martin [LMT] on the now terminated VH-71 effort, will also look to respond to the latest RFI, a company spokesman told Defense Daily yesterday.
"We will play for sure," the spokesman said.
Because AgustaWestland is a foreign company, there are certain parts of the presidential helicopter program that would require them to have a United States partner, the spokesman added.
AgustaWestland and Lockheed Martin had proposed a variant of the EH101, which is currently being flown by the U.K.’s Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, the Italian Navy and the Canadian Forces. Lockheed Martin was the mission systems integrator on the effort.
Last year, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates terminated VH-71 due to extensive cost overruns and schedule delays, coupled with the cancellation of the Combat Search and Rescue program, the partnership between AgustaWestland and Lockheed Martin effectively ended.
On Monday, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky [UTX], once rival competitors for the presidential helicopter effort, announced they were joining forces to submit Sikorsky’s H-92 airframe for the RFI (Defense Daily, April 20).
The AgustaWestland spokesman said the company knew that Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky were going to team up.
"We are confident in our platform," the spokesman added.
The RFI is the first step in initiating the Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) process, Chen, the Navy spokesman, said.
"The AoA will address feasible options considering a holistic assessment of requirements, capabilities, cost drivers, schedule implications, and risks. Industry inputs will be evaluated and analyzed as they become available," he added. "The Navy is confident this approach will result in a program that will benefit from lessons learned and leverage prior work where it is appropriate as we move to a more affordable program to meet this critical mission. As always, the Navy will coordinate efforts with the White House Military Office and the Office of the Secretary of Defense."