In a personal call U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, to continue with Increment 1 of the VH71 Presidential Helicopter Program. Lockheed Martin had originally been requested to produce 28 helicopters in two different Increments. Increment 1 is almost complete, and has produced 9 helicopters including 4 test aircraft. Increment 2 originally would have produced another 23 aircraft, significantly more expensive than the Increment 1 helicopters. It is in this part of the program that the cost overruns occurred, as the previous administration continued to add capability requirements. Schumer, by urging Defense Secretary Gates to abandon Increment 2 and purchase another 14 of the more cost effective Increment 1 helicopters, is aiming to reach a compromise by which the president's aging fleet is replaced with safer and more capable helicopters, while staying within the program's original budget and keeping the jobs associated with the
program in the Greater Binghamton
"Continuing to produce Increment 1 helicopters is a solution that will benefit everyone," said Schumer. "The president will have a safe, stateoftheart helicopter, the tax payers
' investment will be protected, and this will preserve
jobs in the Greater Binghamton
Increment 1 helicopters are referred to as VH71A and Increment 2 are referred to as VH71B.
The VH71A is designed to provide the capabilities needed for the president to execute the duties of his office while aboard Marine One. The VH71A is faster, safer, can travel farther, possesses state of the art avionics, navigation, and communication systems and allows for more passengers than the current 1960'sera VH3D helicopter. The VH71A meets all key performance parameters including reliability, maintainability, and availability. Originally, Lockheed Martin had been requested to produce 5 of these helicopters and another 23 of the Increment 2 helicopters. The compromise that Schumer is urging will result in a oneforone replacement of the current aging fleet with a new fleet of 19 VH71A helicopters.
Schumer noted that the current aging fleet of helicopters needs to be replaced, and this is a cost effective way to do it. Increment 1 delivers helicopters based on the original design requests given to Lockheed Martin in 2005 while staying within the program's original budget. Increment 2 calls for an entirely new helicopter, and has run over budget as the previous administration added more requirements and capabilities. Replacing the entire current fleet with Increment 1 helicopters makes fiscal and strategic sense, said Schumer, as Lockheed Martin has been able to stay close to on budget and should be able to continue to do so.