The US Navy has moved forward on the next phase of the delayed VXX presidential helicopter programme, offering contracts for follow-on risk reduction activities to both competing teams.

The Lockheed Martin-led US101 and Sikorsky's VH-92 are contesting the requirement. A platform selection had been expected early last month, but navy acquisition officials postponed the award by at least eight months to continue analysing the bids. A deal is now expected to be signed at least one month after the US presidential election in November.

In the meantime, the programme is seeking to mitigate the delay by awarding follow-on contracts to both teams, including some work previously assigned to the development phase, such as flight-test planning.

The UK and Canada, meanwhile, have yet to resume routine operations of their AgustaWestland-built EH101 helicopters, flights of which have been heavily restricted since a 30 March crash destroyed a Royal Navy EH101 Merlin HM1 anti-submarine warfare aircraft. An investigation continues into the cause of the accident.

Source: Flight International