South Korea is reluctant to complete a deal for three Sikorsky S-92 VIP helicopters following the USA's selection of the Lockheed Martin-led US101 for its presidential helicopter programme.

Industry sources say Sikorsky is pushing South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun to sign the $105 million contract, which has already been negotiated and endorsed by the head of the defence ministry. But Roh has refused to receive a briefing on the programme since the S-92 beat the AgustaWestland EH101 in an evaluation the defence ministry completed in December.

Sources say Roh may let the contract expire in May. If so, the VH-X programme could be delayed for years, perhaps until a new South Korean president takes office in 2008.

Roh's office has yet to indicate when or whether the contract will be signed, but sources say Roh is reluctant to sign because it would be inappropriate to select a presidential helicopter rejected by the USA and acquire new VIP aircraft during an economic downturn.

Source: Flight International