DOD Announces Plans To Brief Industry On New Presidential Helicopter Program
By Jason Sherman and Dan Taylor
November 30, 2012
The Defense Department has announced plans to brief industry next month on the new multibillion-dollar Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program and meet with individual companies to discuss the forthcoming aircraft competition.
On Dec. 10, the VXX program office plans to conduct a pre-solicitation conference in California, MD, kicking off a four-day set of events for industry and government personnel to discuss the Navy's newly revealed plans to modernize the aging fleet of executive helicopters that carry the president and, on occasion, other heads of state.
Last week, the Navy issued a draft request for proposals for the VXX program, disclosing plans to trim the number of aircraft acquired by 10 percent as well as dramatically reducing cost targets to develop and produce the new helicopters compared to the terminated VH-71 program (DefenseAlert, Nov. 27).
"The purpose of this event is to provide a brief status update of the VXX Program, inform industry of program requirements, receive industry's feedback on the draft RFP, and provide a question and answer/networking opportunity," reads a notice published today in Federal Business Opportunities.
The day after the event, the program office plans to host a meeting with potential prime contractors at the Presidential Helicopter Support Facility, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, to review top-secret VXX requirements in the request for proposals.
On Dec. 11, the program office plans to arrange an opportunity for small business to network with potential prime contractors as well as provide "integrated master schedule training," according to the notice.
The Navy last week issued a draft request for proposals that includes a requirement for submitting an integrated master schedule.
Also on Dec. 11, the Navy program office says it will offer potential VXX prime contractors the opportunity to visit the Presidential Helicopter Support Facility. "The purpose of this visit is to tour the maintenance, test and evaluation, and supply support facilities," the notice states. On Dec. 12, a tour will be offered of the HMX-1 Training Facilities, Quantico, VA, according to the notice. HMX-1 is the Marine Corps helicopter squadron that operates the presidential fleet.
"The purpose of this visit is to tour the training facilities to include the flight training device, the maintenance training device and the electronic classrooms," the notice states.
On Dec. 13 and Dec. 14, the Navy will make available opportunities for potential prime contractors to meet one-on-one with the government. Lastly, the Navy "tentatively plans" to conduct individual technical interchange meetings with potential VXX prime contractors in January, according to the notice.
The Navy's draft VXX solicitation sets a $1.4 billion cost target to develop the new aircraft, more than 50 percent lower than the terminated VH-71 program, and a $41 million "unit recurring flyaway cost," considerably lower than a comparable $65 million estimated cost target for the VH-71. The VXX program, according to the draft solicitation, includes options to buy as many as 25 aircraft to field an operational fleet of 23 helicopters.
The program aims to field a VXX platform by 2020, according to the program office. The Navy expects to release the final RFP in March 2013, and then award an engineering and manufacturing development contract with production options by mid-2014.
One of the main competitors for the program is a team of Lockheed Martin, the winner of the original competition and the builder of the VH-71, and Sikorsky, the runner-up in that competition. Sikorsky will again put forward the S-92 as a candidate for VXX.
Samir Mehta, president of Sikorsky Military Systems, told Inside the Navy in a Nov. 28 interview that the S-92 is a more mature aircraft this time around, with nearly half a million flight hours under its belt. Mehta added that the Navy is approaching the aircraft's procurement differently, emphasizing a low-risk approach.
"I think the Navy is applying a lot of its lessons learned [from VH-71] and we see manifestations of that in this RFP, so I think they've changed their approach," Mehta said. "For us, it's just a matter of making sure we do everything we can to get the right balance for our offering: mature, proven technology, but making sure it's modern technology and one that really minimizes development risks."
Boeing, which plans to make a bid for the program as well, declined to be interviewed but said in a statement, issued by spokeswoman Karen Fincutter, that the company is reviewing the draft RFP "against the capabilities and specifications of the H-47 Chinook and V-22 Osprey." She added that company representatives will attend the industry day and touted the V-22's use as a supporting aircraft for legacy presidential helicopters.