The currently used Sikorsky VH-3 Sea Kings, above left, is about to be replaced with a new fleet of 23 VH-71 Lockheed Martin helicopters, above right, starting this summer. The new choppers will have 200 square feet of cabin space, nearly double the Sea King’s 116. The $110-million helicopter is derived from a European-built AgustaWestland EH101 and is set to go into service between 2009 and 2014.
Fuselage: Made of high-strength reinforced aluminum alloy, it can withstand crash impacts in excess of 15 Gs. Engine: The VH-71 can shift from three 3,000-horsepower General Electric CT7-8E turboshaft engines to two, whereas the twin-engine Sea King must land if one engine fails. Rotor: Five flared rotor blades increase the craft’s efficiency by up to 30 percent over conventional designs when flying at 150-knot cruising speed. Defense System: The VH-71s, like the EH101s they are modeled on, will probably feature radar-warning receivers, laser detectors and flare dispensers to deflect anti-aircraft missiles. Cabin: Measuring eight feet wide and 25 feet long, the cabin will include a lavatory and a galley kitchen. The fold-down stair spares the president from ducking during photogenic entrances and exits. Communications: More room for communications hardware means the president will have secure and continuous access to all White House and Pentagon computer systems and data streams.
The fleet of helicopters currently used by the president includes 30-year old aircraft that were designed in the sixties, fielded in the seventies and no longer has the growth capability to incorporate the equipment necessary to provide suitable presidential support in the post 9-11 environment. More than 200 suppliers in 41 states support Team US101, led by Lockheed Martin with teammates Agusta Westland and Bell Helicopter Textron. Suppliers include some of America's leading aerospace companies, such as General Electric, ITT, Northrop Grumman, Kaman Aerospace and Palomar Products.