UPDATE 4-Boeing casts wide net for presidential copter

* Boeing would produce AgustaWestland craft under license

* 101 had been offered by Lockheed in canceled contract

* Boeing use of European design highlights tanker fight
(Adds background on previous program, paragraph 10)

By Jim Wolf and Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON and MILAN, June 7 (BestGrowthStock) – Boeing Co (BA.N: )
has added a European-designed aircraft to its effort to win a
new multibillion-dollar competition to replace the U.S.
presidential helicopter fleet.

Boeing would get the rights from Italy’s Finmeccanica
(SIFI.MI: ) for U.S. production of its AgustaWestland unit’s
AW101 three-engine, medium-lift helicopter, the two companies
said on Monday.

Boeing already has pitched its heavy-lift Chinook
multimission aircraft, and a V-22 Osprey helicopter-airplane it
builds with Textron Inc’s (TXT.N: ) Bell Helicopter unit, for the
aircraft known as Marine One when the president is on board.

The proposed use of a European air frame for a U.S.
presidential helicopter comes even as Boeing uses “Buy
America”-type arguments, among others, in a race with Europe’s
EADS (EAD.PA: ) for a U.S. Air Force refueling plane contest
potentially worth $50 billion.

“So that you know, this is not a partnership,” Philip
Dunford, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s
Rotorcraft Systems business unit, said in a conference call
with reporters, referring to the deal with Finmeccanica.

The license being acquired gives Boeing full intellectual
property, data and production rights for the 101 in the revived
presidential helicopter contest, Dunford said.

“We’re trying to provide as many options to our customer as
we possibly can.” The U.S. Navy, whose Marines are responsible
for the presidential fleet, is still going through a formal
analysis of the needs, he said.

Finmeccanica said it would act as a subcontractor if Boeing
wins the contract. Financial details were not disclosed.

The 101 was the basis for a Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N: )
presidential helicopter canceled last year. Defense Secretary
Robert Gates scrapped it amid cost overruns that could have
doubled the fleet price to more than $13 billion.

President Barack Obama had described that canceled program
as an example of the Pentagon purchasing process “gone amok.”

Boeing’s deal with Finmeccanica drew attention to the
increasingly bitter rematch against EADS to supply aerial
tankers to the Air Force.

“We’re pleased that Boeing has openly acknowledged the
contribution that international teams, products and platforms
make to U.S. national security,” Guy Hicks, a spokesman for
EADS North American unit, said in a statement.

Boeing said the competitions were unrelated and the
situations were very different.

In the 101’s case, a U.S. company owns the rights and has
full design authority over its offering to the U.S. government,
said John Williamson, a Boeing spokesman. “It is a Boeing
product built by Boeing workers at a Boeing U.S. facility. Any
USG contract will be directly with Boeing.”

“We view this arrangement as supporting the U.S. defense
industrial base in that it enhances our ability to meet U.S.
domestic military rotorcraft needs,” he added by email.

Boeing has highlighted U.S. job-creation among other
arguments against an EADS tanker based on an airframe built by
Airbus, its archrival in commercial aircraft construction.

Dunford said one option for the presidential helicopter
might be a mix of aircraft with different capabilities. The
possibility that the Pentagon would seek 23 to 28 helicopters
at a cost of $6 billion to $10 billion is “probably a good
guess,” he said.

Lockheed and Sikorsky Aircraft Corp, a United Technologies
Corp (UTX.N: ) unit, announced in April they would compete
jointly for the revived presidential helicopter program.
Sikorsky lost the previous competition to Lockheed and
AgustaWestland.

Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group aerospace consultancy,
said the 101 was the biggest helicopter the White House could
get without the risk of serious damage to its south lawn, where
Marine One often takes off and lands.

“This team now has an advantage,” he said, referring to
Boeing and AgustaWestland. “But I certainly wouldn’t rule out
the S-92,” the Lockheed-Sikorsky competitor.

Richard Whittle, author of The Dream Machine: The Untold
History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey, said the Osprey’s speed
would make it attractive as an emergency vehicle for the
president “but past problems will work against it being
selected.”

The Osprey cost the Marine Corps 25 years, $22 billion and
30 lives before it entered service. The Marines and the Air
Force Special Operations Command are now flying Ospreys in
Afghanistan. They take off and land like helicopters and fly
like planes.

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(Reporting by Jim Wolf and Ian Simpson; Editing by David
Holmes, David Cowell and Tim Dobbyn)

UPDATE 4-Boeing casts wide net for presidential copter