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Northrop Grumman, AgustaWestland make new US bids with AW101

Northrop Grumman has teamed with AgustaWestland to offer the Italian company's AW101 for two US military contests.

The long-awaited contests, one for the US Navy to replace the VIP fleet that ferries the US president, and another to replace US Air Force combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopters, both require highly survivable aircraft.

AgustaWestland had previously partnered with Lockheed Martin to produce a similar presidential helicopter called the VH-71, but the VXX programme was cancelled due to high acquisition costs and budget overruns. The presidential transportation role is currently filled by Sikorsky VH-3s, based on the long-retired SH-3.

The USAF's CSAR contest will replace the Sikorsky HH-60s that currently fill the role but are reaching the end of their service lives. Variants of the UH-60 are ubiquitous throughout the US military, and an updated version has been offered as a competitor. A previous competition named CSAR-X was cancelled in 2010.

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