(Updates to include more detail from report in fourth bullet. An earlier version corrected the date the helicopter is supposed to be ready for service.)
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The new presidential helicopter would still scorch the White House lawn as the U.S. Navy and contractor Lockheed Martin haven’t figured out a way to land the aircraft without damage, according to the Government Accountability Office’s newly released report on major weapons systems.
- “Heat from the auxiliary power unit and/or engine exhaust continue to damage the lawn under certain conditions,” GAO says in report
- NOTE: Bloomberg News reported last year that in one of the test flights the Marine One helicopter, without the president on board, left scorch marks on the White House lawn
- Program is studying solutions including aircraft design changes, lawn surface treatments and operational procedural changes to minimize landing zone risks, but that the Navy continues to consider it a “high-risk” problem, according to GAO
- Watchdog warns that a design change to address this problem may require modifications to helicopters already in production
- GAO says Navy program office reviewed its assessment and provided technical comments that were incorporated
- GAO says the effectiveness of the helicopter’s government-developed mission system for simultaneous secure voice and data communications “remains an area of concern”
- NOTE: The first in a $5b fleet of new Marine One helicopters, VH-92A is supposed to be ready to go into service by January 2021
- Navy plans to buy as many as 23 of the new aircraft at a cost of about $214m each