The VH-92A during operational testing on the White House lawn in September, 2018 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Hunter Helis)
Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky has received a $542 million Navy contract to build six low-rate initial production VH-92A presidential helicopters as part of the Marine Corps' plan for 23 aircraft to replace the current White House transport fleet of VH-3D "Marine One" Sea Kings and VH-60N White Hawks, both also made by Sikorsky.
Sikorsky is to deliver the six helicopters between 2021 and 2023.
On May 30, the Navy made a Milestone C decision to move the VH-92A development program into production.
Marine Col. Eric Ropella, PMA-274 presidential helicopter program manager, said that the contract signifies "the hard work and dedication from the team to deliver this important asset on budget and within the planned acquisition timeline."
“This award is an example of acquisition done right," he said.
Dave Banquer, Sikorsky's VH-92A program director, said that the Navy's Milestone C decision "validates the modifications to Sikorsky’s most successful commercial helicopter making it capable to transport the president of the United States at anytime, anywhere around the world."
“Sikorsky has been building and providing helicopter transportation for every U.S. President and commander-in- chief since Dwight D. Eisenhower," he said. "We are excited to build the next generation of transport with the VH-92A helicopter."
In 2005, Sikorsky, then owned by United Technologies Corp., lost in its initial bid to build the presidential transport replacement helicopter to a consortium led by Lockheed Martin, which offered the VH-71 Kestrel. Spiraling development costs of the VH-71 led the Navy to cancel the VH-71 in 2009 after the service had spent more than $4 billion to buy nine of the aircraft, which were then sold to Canada for $164 million as a source of spare parts for that country's fleet of CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue helicopters by Leonardo.
Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1), responsible for vertical-lift support of the president, his entourage, heads of state, Defense Department officials and other VIPs, will fly the VH-92As.
HMX-1 has retired its fleet of CH-53E Super Stallions and replaced them with Bell-Boeing MV-22B Osprey tiltrotors. Those aircraft carry the press and other members of the president’s entourage when they are being transported by rotorcraft.