U.S. News

Obama cooks up a storm over helicopter

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A new high-tech helicopter that was designed to whisk U.S. President Barack Obama to safety in the event of a nuclear attack had a secret capability -- cooking.

The helicopter, one of the world’s most technologically advanced, was scrapped by the Pentagon for its high cost. Obama revealed on Monday it would have had an onboard kitchen.

“Among its other capabilities, it would let me cook a meal while under nuclear attack. I’ll tell you something. If the United States of America is under nuclear attack, the last thing on my mind will be whipping up a snack,” he quipped to laughter and applause from an audience of military veterans.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates terminated Lockheed Martin Corp’s VH-71 helicopter program in April. It had become a symbol of Obama’s drive against costly U.S. defense contracts that he says waste billions of dollars of taxpayer money.

The helicopter program was intended to replace the current fleet of “Marine One” presidential helicopters that have been in service for a generation.

The program was originally designed to provide 23 helicopters at a cost of $6.5 billion, but it had fallen six years behind schedule while its estimated price tag had soared to more than $13 billion.

Editing by Eric Beech