Lockheed To Put Foreign Parts In New "Marine One"

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A international consortium of companies led by Lockheed Martin beat out Sikorsky Aircraft in a competition to build a fleet of 23 "Marine One" presidential helicopters, the Department of Defense announced on Friday. The contract is worth $6 billion. The new helicopter, called the US101, is a variant of a medium-lift three-engine helicopter designed in Italy. It will carry more weight and fly faster than the current fleet, and has a significantly improved range. Lockheed says it will expand its site in Oswego, N.Y., and build new helicopter assembly facilities for Bell Helicopter in Texas. Staff recruiting is underway. Sikorsky, based in Connecticut, had built the presidential helicopters for 50 years. "Sikorsky and our All-American supplier team are disappointed with this outcome,'' said Stephen N. Finger, Sikorsky's president. Sikorsky said its helicopter would have cost less than Lockheed's, and could fly farther and faster while carrying more payload more safely. The competition involved political lobbying at the highest levels. Sikorsky pledged to build the helicopters in America, while much of the work on Lockheed's model will be done overseas. The Navy said politics did not factor into its decision. The first US101 is due in 2009.