The “Marine One” team of Lockheed Martin and Agusta Westland flew the first helicopter built specifically for the VH-71 Presidential helicopter program on July 3, “less than 30 months from the contract’s start,” according to a Team US101 release. Steven Moss, president of AgustaWestland North America, says the team is “on track to fly three more test vehicles by early 2008.” Jeff Bantle, general manager at Lockheed Martin Integration Systems in Owego, N.Y., says the July 3 flight of Test Vehicle #2 “marks the formal start of the VH-71 flight test program and positions the team to deliver production aircraft … in October 2009.” The Navy has set initial operational capability for late 2009. Remember that most analysts thought the Lockheed-AgustaWestland entrant was a shoe-in for the Air Force’s combat search and rescue helicopter replacement program, but USAF decided the VH-71 was in schedule difficulties.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.