The Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel is the helicopter that has been derived as a variant of the original AugustaWestland AW1001 helicopter. This helicopter was designed and manufactured in order to order the Marin One of the US Marine Corps which is the transport helicopter for the US President. The helicopter was presented into many competitions under the name US101.
The Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel was developed by the combined efforts of the three of the main aircraft designers and manufacturers which are as follows.
- Lockheed Martin
- Bell helicopter
The Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel or also known as the US 101 was selected to be the Presidential helicopter fleet back in January of 2005 under the PHRP (Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program) where it was then designated as VH-71.
However, the helicopter suffered major budget cuts rendering the helicopter to have a delay in its delivery. These problems were cost overruns as well as many engineering issues that aroused due to the unanticipated modifications made by the government at the time that had been previously absent from the RFP (Request For Proposal).
President Barrack Obama back in 2009 asked the Secretary Of Defense to put this whole project on either being canceled or at hold due to the high costs. The helicopter initially had a planned budget proposal of 13 billion dollars for nearly 28 helicopters. Then the US Navy was the one to cancel their project for the Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel after spending 4.4 billion dollars in total after their delivery of 9 Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrels.
For our readers today, we have gathered a bunch of amazing facts about the Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel which are as follows.
The Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel was powered by not one, not two but three of the General Electric CT7-8E turboshaft engines. Each of these engines gave the helicopter a power of nearly 2520 shp during its take-off and then to propel the aircraft for a top speed of 150 knots. The helicopter could fly at a service height of 15010 feet with a range of nearly 863 miles.
The contract for the designing and manufacturing of the whole Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel project was paled for about 14 billion dollars with the first of the helicopter making its debut back in 2007.
Unfortunately for the helicopter, the cost for its already existing parts as well as the maintenance followed by the continued evolution of its airframe over the period of its service was so exorbitantly high that the project was placed on halt or to be entirely canceled back in 2009 on a request from President of United States.
One contract was also placed by the US Navy and they had to take their order back after spending nearly 4.4 billion dollars with only getting the delivery of the 9 Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrels.
The Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel was built in order to serve the roles of a medium-duty transport aircraft for its predecessors like VH-60N and the VH-3D that had well served their time. But the development and the maintenance cost rendered the whole program useless.
As per the proposition in the contract, the primary for the Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel was to be a transport helicopter for following personals.
- POTUS (President of the United States)
- Vice President
- Heads of States
- State dignitaries
This multi-engine helicopter was flown by 2 pilots and was equipped with several communications system making it like “An oval Office In the Sky For POTUS). This feature was deemed important for not only the safety of the president but also to continue his governance of the country without having any hindrances during his rotary platform mode of transportation.
Sold like Scrap
All of the above-stated requirements for the Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel were intended to be met by sometime in 2010. However, after suffering from budget problems and then followed by failure to satisfy the Secretary of the US Navy, the helicopter was never able to deliver its intended requirements.
This led to the whole fleet being sold to Canada back in 2013 and even in Canada; these Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrels never saw any air time. In Canada, they were used as scrap aircraft for the parts that needed to be replaced in the search and rescue helicopter named AugustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant.
In fact, these helicopters were sold to the Canadian govern for nearly free. The reported sale contract of the fleet of Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel was about 164 million dollars.
The Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel is a helicopter that has been loosely based on the designing model of the AugustaWestland’s AW101 which was sued as a medium-duty lifting helicopter.
The CH-149 Cormorant, the search and rescue helicopter in service of Canadian government also had many parts that were sued in the Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel thus making the whole deal to entirely been profitable for the Canadian government.
The one major difficulty that arises in the case of rotary-wing aircraft is that they require replacement parts and heavy maintenance. Before every takeoff, these helicopters are thoroughly checked for any problem and for that there needs to be an adequate supply of parts which can be used in case of maintenance. Without having and sizeable supply of parts, the helicopter can be grounded for the time.
In case of the Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel, the helicopter that was intended to transport the President of the United States, to have no sizeable supply of helicopter parts and have a major maintenance cost, it simply is not an optimal helicopter.