Once bitter industrial enemies, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky Aircraft have now joined forces and are expected to announce they will partner to bid on the once and future U.S. presidential replacement helicopter program. The story was confirmed by a Lockheed Martin spokesperson late tonight.
Sikorsky lost the bid for the then-VXX presidential helo in 2005 and has made no secret of its desire to propose its platform again. And there is no love lost between Lockheed Martin and AgustaWestland, the partnership that won the first attempt to replace the aging Marine One fleet.
Whether Sikorsky will offer its S-92 platform, where the aircraft will be built and where integration will occur - as well as how Lockheed Martin (which originally pitched Agusta's EH-101 as a far less-expensive option than the S-92) will reconfigure its marketing pitch - are all questions that remain to be addressed.
In what became a preview of the heated USAF tanker debate, the VXX competition touched on everything from who had the better platform to the politics of supporting allies with the result of foreign providers flying the president of the United States. Above all, there were U.S. jobs at stake. In the end, the VH-71 program was cancelled by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barack Obama last year for numerous reasons.
Photo: The Presidential Helo that never was. The Lockheed-AgustaWestland VH-71 at Lockheed's facility in Owego, N.Y. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin.