I think you all are missing the point. It makes little sense to otherwise spend the same amount of money to cancel the VH
-71 program as is the plan, if it costs the same and likely more money to get another platform/program up to the same spot that the VH
-71 in Increment 1 form is already at!
As a former Marine rotary-winged avionics tech, I've followed the fiasco otherwise known as the H-1 upgrade program from it's onset where hoary AH
-1W and UH-1N's were intended to be upgraded to new model Zulu and Yankee status but instead, were all but basically dumped mid-way through the program for new-build airframes, essentially doubling the initial costs of the alleged "upgrade" program which was sold on the premise that it was going to be cheaper than buying new aircraft, (new aircraft that likely would not have been built by Bell helicopter mind you!)
My point is to spend anywhere from $2 to $4 billion to extend the life of the VH
-3D and VH
-60N would be gross fiscal mismanagement and likely only cost more than what is even currently estimated, and all so as to result in the status quo.
The facts as I understand them are simple: Increment 1 VH
-71A's have every capability as do existing VH
-3D and VH
-60N aircraft, but instead (in addition to being brand new,) offer a larger cabin size and level of amenity, offer superior operating performance in terms of speed, range, reliability, maintainability, and survivability.
Also, throw into the equation from the perspective of a former avionics technician and that of a private pilot, the VH
-71 flight deck also affords the HMX pilots an exponential level of improvement in flight deck situational awareness and cockpit resource management, which only further enhance the safety and preservation of the cargo it's tasked to ferry.
As one who spent a lot of time on the flight deck of Marine CH
-46E's who recently got an opportunity to spend a few hours in the MV
-22 sim, the level of improvement between the two flight decks is like the difference between carburetor and fuel injection, flint-lock rifle and an M-16, or dare I even say pen and paper versus a modern graphing calculator?
The problem with VXX is that after the contract was awarded and agreed upon, egregious scope creep suffocated the financial practicality of the platform.
I'm a logical and deductive reasoning type of guy, and I like ROI analyses. The VH
-71 is still the very best and most capable platform in the entire world to perform the mission of HMX; the S-92 is decent but it's inferior in nearly every category.
So spending anywhere near the same amount as it would cost to just finish the Increment 1 buy as it would cost to terminate the current program and begin another, to again tell us what we already know, is fruitless at best.
Loren Thompson sums it up well...
The critics are right. Starting over will cost the government at least $8 billion, and that’s not even counting the price-tag for a new replacement helicopter. First, Secretary Gates proposes to walk away from the $3.3 billion already spent on the canceled replacement helicopter, designated VH-71. Second, the government will have to pay termination fees of $200-600 million to contractors (depending on whose estimate you believe). Third, $4.4 billion will need to be spent to extend the service life of the helicopters in the existing Marine One fleet, which were supposed to be retired in the near future. Nobody knows what it will cost to develop a different replacement helicopter, but that money will be added to the $8 billion in costs already associated with the Gates decision.
It appears that Secretary Gates canceled the helicopter without a serious assessment of alternatives. VH-71 was the only rotor-craft in existence that had the potential to meet presidential range and payload requirements while still being able to land in the confined space of the White House lawn. Most of the cost overruns in the program resulted from unrealistic specifications and features added by the government. And some of the supposed problems with VH-71 that Gates cited as reasons for killing the program — like a limited service life — turn out to be untrue. But what’s most unsettling about the cancellation of the president’s new helicopter is that it squanders billions of dollars at a time when the federal government is facing the worst fiscal crisis in living memory.