The Navy has spent nearly a decade and $3.4 billion researching candidates for a new fleet of helicopters to transport the President and other government VIPs. Now, as the Navy starts the process anew as the VXX program, AgustaWestland announced that it will again enter the fray with its medium-lift three-engine AW101, this time partnered with Northrop Grumman. The two companies will also team to promote the AW101 for the anticipated Air Force Combat Rescue Helicopter requirement.
AgustaWestland had partnered with Lockheed Martin on the original competition, designated VH-71, scrapped in June 2009 after delays and massive cost overruns took the projected cost of production helicopters to $400 million apiece. Following that cancellation, the Italian helicopter manufacturer signed a licensing rights agreement on the AW101 with Boeing in 2010 with an eye to future DoD competitions. That agreement has since been terminated.
Also in 2010, Lockheed Martin, AgustaWestland’s original partner on the VH-71, announced that it had joined with Sikorsky for the VXX competition. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been highly critical of the VH-71 and VXX programs to date.