With a building expectation that the U.S. Navy is on the brink of announcing, possibly in May, that Sikorsky will provide the next presidential helicopter (it is, after all, the only bidder left in a race), it seems that the first six aircraft have been slated for delivery as early as 2019.
In a financial highlights summary issued by the U.S. Navy, within section IV on Investment & Development, and under aviation programs, there is a schedule for the delivery of six helicopters in FY19.
Further, the document states: “The VXX Presidential Helicopter program replaces the legacy VH-3D which was fielded in 1974 and the VH-60N which was fielded in 1989. In FY15, the VXX program will continue the Engineering and Manufacturing Development Phase to include the integration of systems, production, qualification, and support of test articles, logistics products development, demonstration of system integration, interoperability, safety and utility.”
While Sikorsky is virtually certain to supply its VH-92 helicopter (a VIP-specified version of the S-92), partner Lockheed Martin’s Owego facility will install the specialist mission systems that will be required.
The U.S. Navy’s highlight document confirms that in FY14 “development funding continues for the F-35, CH-53K, Triton MQ-4 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and VXX.”
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) owns the program under program manager Captain Dean Peters who has wide experience of the Navy’s rotary aircraft and unmanned aerial systems. He took over the presidential helicopter program (PMA-274) in August 2011.
The previous program to replace the aging presidential helicopter fleet which began in 2003 was won by AgustaWestland and Lockheed Martin with the US101, which became known as the VH-71 Kestrel, but was cancelled by the president himself when he entered office in 2009. The cost had escalated from an initial $6.1 billion for 28 helicopters in 2005 to around $11.2 billion when the cancellation decision was made. The rapid escalation in cost was attributed to a continual change in requirement, particularly regarding the mission systems. Sikorsky will be hoping that NAVAIR now has a clear vision of how the new VXX will be equipped.
Related: VIP/Head of State News