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Pentagon Finds Lockheed Martin's New Presidential Helicopter Unreliable In Emergencies

The deployment of the new presidential helicopter built by Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT) is being delayed following a Pentagon’s testing unit report stating the aircraft is not “operationally suitable,” particularly in case of an emergency.

What Happened: According to an internal Department of Defense report obtained by Bloomberg News, the new VH-92 helicopter was cited for “failing to meet the reliability, availability or maintainability threshold requirements.” The report also warned of “instability, cabin interior flaws, frequent maintenance inspections and rear air-stair door components contributed to low aircraft availability,” as well as the potential for scorching the grass in the White House South Lawn landing zone by spinning rotors and engine exhaust.

The report, which was dated Sept. 28, stated the helicopter was “operationally effective” for “administrative” missions including flights from the White House to Camp David or Joint Base Andrews outside, but was unreliable for emergency flights.

“Mission Communication System (MCS) often delayed critical communications at the beginning of contingency missions and did not adequately support timely, continuous and secure communications,” the 28-page Pentagon report said.

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Why It Matters: The VH-92 helicopter program is a $5 billion, 23-aircraft program designed to replace the aging helicopter fleet that entered duty in 1975. This fleet includes Marine One, which is set aside for presidential transit.

The U.S. Marine Corps and the White House Military Office initially planned to issue an “Initial Operational Capability” on the helicopter in June 2020, only to reschedule the certification to January and then July. Without this certification, the fleet cannot be assigned to specific missions.

John Dorrian, a spokesman for Lockheed’s Sikorsky aircraft division, downplayed the problems cited in the report by noting the company “continues to work closely with our customer to ensure the aircraft meets all operational requirements.”

Photo: U.S. Navy

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