The US Navy will be holding an industry day for the VXX presidential helicopter programme on 6 June. The service intends to procure a total of 23 VXX aircraft, including six test examples and 17 production helicopters.
In many ways, the VXX effort is a rehash of a previous iteration of the programme, which was terminated in 2009. The previous programme, also originally called VXX, saw Lockheed Martin and AgustaWestland's AW101-based VH-71 Kestrel cancelled, after nine helicopters had already been, built because costs had risen to a projected total of $11.2 billion for 28 aircraft. That was up from a projected cost of about $6.1 billion when the contract was signed in 2005.
The entire process repeating itself again in 2013 is one symptom of how badly the Pentagon's procurement system is broken, says analyst Dan Goure, of the Lexington Institute. "It's a perfect example of how the system is busted," he says. "If you were to tell this story to somebody from Mars, they wouldn't believe you."
Another prime example is the US Air Force's Light Air Support programme, Goure says, which is still being protested by losing bidder Beechcraft even as Embraer's A-29 Super Tucano heads toward production in Florida with Sierra Nevada. Like the VXX effort, the LAS programme is on its second iteration after being previously cancelled due to protests and contracting issues. "The screw-ups are continuous and mind-boggling," Goure says.
Furthermore, no effort to try to reform the Pentagon's Byzantine procurement process has succeeded in any meaningful way, he says. "Nothing the administration has done, past administrations either, has reduced the cost or speeded up the process," Goure says. "We have had reform after reform."
The most recent attempt at improving the procurement process is Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall's much-vaunted Better Buying Power 2.0 initiative, but it has yielded no demonstrable impact on the cost or speed of defence procurements, he adds. "Can anybody demonstrate this has made things faster, smoother or cheaper? The answer is 'no'," Goure says.
Meanwhile, the new iteration of the VXX programme continues with would-be contractors required to submit their final proposals for the reborn helicopter programme by 1 August 2013, according to a navy document.
AgustaWestland will once again offer the AW101, while Sikorsky will bid the S-92. Meanwhile, Bell Boeing may offer a variant of the V-22 Osprey, though Boeing could also offer the CH-47 Chinook.