Sikorsky's VH-92 Is The New Presidential Helicopter
With the announcement by the United States Naval Air Systems Command that the next generation of Presidential helicopters will be made by Sikorsky, one of the U.S. governments most lengthy and convoluted procurement programs has finally reached its conclusion.
The U.S. Department of Defense initially began its search for a replacement Presidential helicopter in 2002, influenced by both the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the worrisome age of the Marine One presidential transport helicopters. At that time, the VH-3 helicopters (based on the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King) with the U.S. Marine Corps Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) entered service as early as 1963 with the upgraded VH-3D replacing the VH-3A by 1976.
Thus, the VXX procurement program was instituted on December 18th of 2003 with RPPs (requests for proposals) offered to AgustaWestland (partnering with Lockheed) and Sikorsky. The former's bid was selected in mid-2005 with the planned replacement helicopter dubbed the VH-71 Kestrel. By mid-2008, however, the original cost of the new 28 helicopter fleet had nearly doubled to US$11.2 billion and on April 6th, 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates officially canceled the VH-71.
As NASC was now back to square one and the Presidential helicopter fleet wasn't getting any younger, the VXX procurement program was re-started on November 23rd, 2012 and by mid-2013 only one contractor put in an official bid: Sikorsky.
This led directly to the May 7th, 2014 announcement by Naval Air Systems Command that Sikorsky would be building the next generation of Presidential helicopters, dubbed VH-92. The $1,244,677,064 fixed-price incentive engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract specifies the adaptation of Sikorsky's currently in-production S-92A helicopter modified by the integration of government-defined mission systems and the installation of an executive interior.
Not that the Sikorsky S-92 is a slouch by any means, but this four-bladed, twin-engined, medium-lift helicopter will be made more, er, presidential with the addition of triple electrical power, redundant flight controls and improved resistance to bird strikes. The first six helicopters are scheduled to join the fleet in 2019, while delivery of 17 additional choppers will begin sometime in 2020... an election year, as luck would have it. Perhaps the new VH-92s will give the incumbent a lift in the polls, among other things.