It's a shame that this program is doing so poorly, but I guess we could all see it coming. I remember covering the competition a few years ago and the pitch was that the companies would have a new plane ready in time for Bush to fly off the South Lawn in it when he leaves office in January 2009.
Wishful thinking as usual.
Our friends at Av Week sent us an interesting story on new electronic defenses that're being put on the bird:
The VH-71 presidential replacement helicopter is going to bring with it classified capabilities, as well as some slightly more visible semi-secrets.
Perhaps highest on the classified list is the helicopter's protection from electronic attack. Program officials admit to it being hardened to electromagnetic pulses (EMP) generated by nuclear explosions. But they clam up when quizzed about the Pentagon's newer threats that include high-powered microwaves (HPM) that can be generated by non-nuclear means, including suitcase-sized devices such as those manufactured by the German firm Deihl.
"Nice try, but we're not going to discuss waveforms," says Capt. Donald Gaddis, the departing program manager and rear admiral candidate. A Defense Science Board report on directed energy weapons, circulated around the Pentagon starting last December, says that kinetic weapons may be replaced by HPM devices for "airborne-defeat of electronic systems."
That can be applied two ways -- airborne HPM devices to disable air-to-air and ground-to-air missiles, ground vehicles, aircraft and helicopters; or ground-based weapons that serve as anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems. The report also urges the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency to undertake a program to "discover and assess emerging laser and high-power microwave capabilities available to the full range of potential adversaries. HPM could be used to disrupt electro-optical sensors and onboard electronic elements of surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
In addition, disruption of computer-based assets, perhaps without knowledge of the cause, is possible." One of the crucial capabilities of the AgustaWestland-designed VH-71 is the advanced communications system that ensures very important persons such as the president and cabinet members can talk to any government agency or organization at any time. A communications manager can ensure datalink connections (including UHF satcom, ARC-244 FM high-powered radio, Inmarsat commercial satellite and voice-over-Internet-protocol) to any of the 14 passenger positions.