Plan to Replace Marine One Choppers Gets Airborne Again

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Three years after delays and cost overruns put an end to plans to replace the fleet of Marine One helicopters that ferry President Obama from place to place, the U.S. Navy's controversial VXX chopper program is back in the spotlight.

On Friday, the Department of the Navy released a draft Request for Proposals, or RFP, to build a new fleet of helicopters to replace the existing mix of VH-60N Night Hawks and VH-3D Sea Kings  currently serving the president.

Interested bidders will be invited to attend a pre-solicitation conference to learn more about what the Navy wants to go into the new helicopter, ahead of the issuance of an official RFP in mid-2013. To keep costs down, though, the Navy says it will encourage bidders to base their proposals on "an existing, in-production helicopter platform from which the VXX will be derived."

So far, United Technologies' (NYSE: UTX  ) Sikorsky unit has expressed interest in bidding on the project, with assistance from Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT  ) as systems integrator. In addition, Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) may bid in cooperation with Europe's AgustaWestland. Other potential participants  may include Textron (NYSE: TXT  ) , which owns Bell Helicopter, Northrop Grumman, General Electric, and Triumph Group's (NYSE: TGI  ) Vought Aircraft Industries, all of which participated in the VXX competition when it was last up for bid.

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