Sikorsky will build the new helicopter ride for the President of the United States (POTUS). The US Navy gave the Stratford, Connecticut, based company on 7 May 2014 the order to modify, test and deliver six S-92 helicopters and two trainer simulators for the US Marine Corps – which operates the fleet of green and white choppers that serve the president and his entourage worldwide.
The choppers – Marine One once the president is on board – are probably the biggest TV stars amongst the helicopters, touching down on the White House lawn, carrying the president overseas and so on. The contract for Sikorsky was expected, but is still very controversial as AIRheads↑Fly editor Marcel Burger already wrote in a special opinion feature in August 2013.
The VH-92 Superhawk or VXX – as the working name for the new presidential ride goes – has been the only remaining candidate to replace the fleet of aging VH-3D Sea Kings that currently fly the US president everywhere. The total requirement is to have 21 operational aircraft by 2023.
Sikorsky President Mick Maurer is happy. “For 57 years, our company has been trusted with the critical responsibility of building and supporting a safe and reliable helicopter fleet for the President of the United States. We are proud of our record and the bright future for our company. We stand ready to deliver the next Marine One, the world’s most advanced executive transport helicopter.”
Ten nations currently fly the dual-engine, medium-lift S-92 helicopter for their head of state missions. Since 2004, Sikorsky has delivered more than 200 S-92 helicopters, predominantly to operators serving the worldwide offshore oil and gas industry, and for civil search and rescue.
Sikorsky submitted its VXX proposal for an existing, in-production helicopter platform to the Navy in August 2013, following a Request for Proposals in May of the same year.
Of the six contracted aircraft, two will be designated Engineering Development Models (EDM), enabling the Department of the Navy at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland to test the platform’s flight performance and mission communication system capabilities as certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. Sikorsky is contracted to deliver the two EDM aircraft during 2018.
The remaining four aircraft — designated System Demonstration Test Articles (SDTA) — will perform operational test and evaluation, and then transition to operational status. Sikorsky will deliver two training simulators (one each for maintainers and pilots) ahead of aircraft deliveries in 2018.
By early 2019, the Navy is expected to place orders for the first of three lots of 17 production aircraft. Sikorsky expects to complete delivery of these production aircraft by 2023.
The Sikorsky team will produce the aircraft in four distinct stages. Assembly of the baseline “commercial off-the-shelf” flight-certified aircraft will occur at the company’s S-92 production facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. The modifications to meet the requirements of the presidential mission will be performed in Connecticut.
In Owego, New York, subcontractor Lockheed Martin will install the integrated communciations and mission systems. Back in Stratford, Sikorsky will then install the presidential interior into the 6-foot-high by 20-foot-long by 6.5-foot-wide cabin, and deliver the completed aircraft to the US Navy.
Source: Sikorksy with additional reporting by AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger