Boeing Co. announced Monday that it planned to ask the Navy to consider one of three aircraft models in the bidding for a multibillion-dollar project to replace the presidential helicopter fleet, joining a second company with local ties that is also vying for the Pentagon contract.
Ridley Township-based Boeing Rotorcraft Systems said it will offer a helicopter based on its Chinook or Osprey aircraft and was securing a license from AgustaWestland to produce a Boeing version of its AW101 medium-lift aircraft.
Boeing has Chinook and Osprey assembly lines at its plant just south of Philadelphia International Airport.
Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., which has a manufacturing plant just west of Coatesville, in Sadsbury Township, said earlier this year that it, too, intended to make a play for the lucrative contract. The current presidential fleet is composed of Sikorsky helicopters built several decades ago.
(AgustaWestland also has local operations, at Northeast Philadelphia Airport.)
Working in tandem with Lockheed Martin Corp., which had initially won the contract some years ago but lost it in 2009 when the government terminated the deal due to ballooning costs, Sikorsky will offer a model based on its H-92 helicopter.
The Navy is calling for the production of 23 to 28 new aircraft. Lockheed was initially awarded the government contract, but last year, the Pentagon canceled the work as Bethesda-based Lockheed was running up the projected tab to $13 billion - beyond levels that initially had been forecast.
There is no estimated price tag as the Pentagon gears up a second time to launch the project, said Boeing spokesman Andrew Lee, but the government has budgeted about $2.4 billion for early development costs.
Boeing, which also builds helicopters in Mesa, Ariz., said it was too soon to say where the copters would be assembled if the company turned out to be a winning bidder. They would be built somewhere in the United States, the company said.
Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., began manufacturing S-92 copters in Coatesville last year, after acquiring the plant in 2005 from Keystone Helicopter Corp. It has been expanding its workforce there since making the initial acquisition.
Sikorsky also builds the S-92 at its plant in Stratford, Conn., where the company is headquartered, said company spokeswoman Marianne Heffernan. The H-92 is a variant of that model.
The Navy has set a June 17 deadline for receiving preliminary information from interested parties. Formal bidding is expected to occur in 2011.
The first aircraft would be completed and placed in service by the president in 2017 at the earliest, said Lee of Boeing.