The ninth and final VH-71 to be built under “Increment 1” of the US Presidential Helicopter Replacement Programme departed AgustaWestland’s Yeovil facility today on its way to the United States for completion by prime contractor Lockheed Martin. The aircraft will depart the UK for the US later this week aboard a US Air Force C-17 transport aircraft.
Giuseppe Orsi, CEO, AgustaWestland said at the delivery ceremony “The delivery of the final aircraft today has been achieved just over four years after the contract was awarded in 2005. All the aircraft delivered are completely compliant to the specifications required by the U.S. Government and the progress achieved in such a short period of time is uncommon for an acquisition of this size and complexity. The whole VH-71 team can be proud of this remarkable achievement”.
He went on to say “The VH-71 helicopters meet or exceed all the performance requirements specified in the contract and it remains the only helicopter available today, or in the medium term, that can meet the demanding requirements. The VH-71 delivers much greater safety, speed, range and capability that the legacy aircraft which are now reaching the end of their service life.”
The contract to build four Test Vehicles (TV) and five Pilot Production (PP) aircraft was awarded in January 2005 after an exhaustive evaluation of all solutions. Since then the programme schedule for AgustaWestland has changed by only six months while accommodating over 800 customer changes including 50 major design changes.
The VH-71 is more than an executive transport helicopter – it is a command and control platform that will provide the President with seamless communications connectivity and fulfil the Marine One mission requirements.
The VH-71 aircraft will be ready to enter service in late 2010 following installation of the cabin interior, communications suite and other mission equipment. Following delivery of the final “Increment 1” aircraft AgustaWestland will continue to provide technical and logistical support for the fleet of aircraft and is ready to proceed with “Increment 2” or a range of alternative solutions utilising the capabilities of the “Increment 1” VH-71.
The VH-71 is based on the successful multi-mission AW101 helicopter currently serving with seven armed forces and has logged more than 180,000 flight hours, including prolonged combat operations in Iraq and Kosovo.