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AgustaWestland seeks to revive Marine One bid.

PARIS: Italy s AgustaWestland on Tuesday defended the performance of the helicopter it wants to supply President Barack Obama and urged compromise over U.S. plans to scrap a controversial $13 billion fleet renewal plan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommended this month that the project to buy a new Marine One fleet be scrapped, saying its cost had doubled and that helicopters built by the Finmeccanica unit would have a 5-10 year useful life.

AgustaWestland Chief Executive Giuseppe Orsi said in an interview that the helicopter it planned to supply in a two-stage procurement contract, led by Lockheed Martin, would fly for at least 30 years, just like most aircraft.

"The helicopter is certified today by both civil and military authorities for a minimum of 10,000 hours and that means 30-35 years of activity," he told Reuters.

"We have agreed with the (U.S.) Navy a series of tests to confirm these 10,000 hours," he said in a telephone interview. Orsi was speaking as AgustaWestland delivered the ninth out of 23 "VH-71" helicopter airframes required in the programme, which was hailed as a major European breakthrough to the U.S. defence market when Finmeccanica won the order in 2005.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2009

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Apr 30, 2009
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