U.S. Navy, Lockheed says phase 2 of VH-71 complete by 2017

FARNBOROUGH (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin LMT.N and the U.S. Navy said the second phase of the VH-71 Presidential helicopter program would be completed by 2017 after a funding shortfall delayed the first phase.

“Issues with 2008 funding slowed the program down, meaning increment one will be operational no earlier than 2010,” Donald Gaddis, the U.S. Navy captain in charge of the project told reporters at a media briefing at the Farnborough Airshow.

The second phase of the $6.1 billion scheme to create an Oval Office in the sky will see its range increased and its payload, speed, navigation and communications systems upgraded.

“We’ll start increment two in October, at the start of our 2009 fiscal year. We’re looking at ways at moving the schedule to the left but we’re not making any promises to Whitehouse on that,” Gaddis said on Tuesday.

The program was recently restructured after delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns that stemmed from an overly ambitious schedule adopted after the September 11, 2001 hijacking attacks and an incomplete understanding of complex requirements, said Gaddis.

The first batch of aircraft is due to be delivered in September 2010.

Reporting by Rhys Jones, Editing by Dan Lalor