The Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland/Bell Helicopter US101 team has installed uprated engines and is preparing for flight tests several months in advance of a delayed downselect decision on the USA's next presidential helicopter fleet.

Both the Sikorksy VH-92 and Lockheed Martin US101 teams have selected the improved General Electric CT7-8E for the competition, but the Lockheed Martin-led team is claiming its early integration strategy will provide a critical advantage.

Sikorsky confirms it has no plans to upgrade from the CT7-8A powerplant until well into the VXX development phase following contract award expected by end-year.

Earlier this month, Canada selected the H-92 for its Maritime Helicopter Programme, but the order calls for the baseline CT7-8A engine.

The US Navy stalled the VXX programme on the eve of a planned contract award in late March ostensibly because of concerns with technology readiness, although the delay removes the politically sensitive competition from the limelight until after the US presidential election is held in early November.

In the meantime, the navy has directed both competitors to focus on risk-reduction efforts. John Young, assistant secretary of the navy for acquisition, technology and logistics, has named engine maturity as one of the service's top concerns ahead of a contract award.

The Sikorsky VH-92 team is now conducting a nationwide publicity tour of its aircraft, showcasing the two-engine aircraft at naval bases and the facilities of its suppliers.

The triple-turbine US101 team is expected to counter the Sikorsky group's effort later this year, perhaps with the aircraft equipped with the uprated CT7-8E engines.



Source: Flight International