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Boeing Presidential Copter Bid May Use Non-U.S. Parts

June 7 (Bloomberg) -- Boeing Co.’s proposed bid for the U.S. presidential helicopter program, based on an Anglo-Italian rotorcraft by Finmeccanica SpA, may include some parts made outside the U.S.

“Our goal is to do as much of the plane in the U.S. as possible,” Phil Dunford, Chicago-based Boeing’s vice president for Rotorcraft Systems, told reporters on a conference call today. Components for AgustaWestland’s AW101 helicopters “are still built in Europe, so dependent on the timeline, I’d imagine there will be existing 101-supply chains that we’ll use,” he said.

Boeing announced today that it would obtain rights to the AgustaWestland helicopter so that it may bid for the presidential program.

The company’s plans to offer the Finmeccanica-designed helicopter to transport the U.S. president, and its possible dependence on European suppliers to make the aircraft, drew criticism from European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., based in Paris and Munich. Boeing and EADS are competing in a $35 billion business to supply the U.S. Air Force with refueling airplanes.

“For several years, Boeing and its allies have been harshly critical of the participation of EADS North America in the KC-X tanker competition,” Guy Hicks, an EADS spokesman, said in a statement. “With this announcement, we now expect Boeing to cease its shrill rhetoric.”

Underbid Possible

Boeing has said EADS may underbid on the tanker contract because subsidiary Airbus SAS received European government subsidies.

Boeing fell $1.04 to $60.11 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have gained 11 percent this year.

The U.S. Navy is beginning a competition to replace the helicopters used by the president. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2009 canceled Lockheed Martin Corp.’s VH-71 presidential helicopter program because costs increased to $13 billion. Lockheed’s partner on that project was AgustaWestland, which beat United Technologies Corp.’s Sikorsky unit.

Lockheed is teamed with Sikorsky for the new competition.

Boeing is proposing two other helicopters for the president’s use, including a version of its Chinook helicopter and the V-22 Osprey airplane, Dunford said. The company will pick one of the three designs after the Navy decides on specifications for the presidential helicopter, he said.

The Navy set aside about $2 billion in the budget for early development of the helicopters, Dunford said. He declined to estimate the total value of the program.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gopal Ratnam in Washington at gratnam1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net.

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