President Barack Obama kidded yesterday that he didn’t realize he was so deprived by the VH-3D that he needed a new helicopter. It was a great line. Even presidential rival Senator John McCain laughed heartily. But was Obama’s comment, in fact, untrue? Is he deprived by his executive helicopter?
The first Sikorsky VH-3D was delivered in December 1974, making the oldest helicotper in the HMX-1 fleet slightly more than 34 years old. But despite a three-year-old program to develop a replacement, the US Navy has quietly launched a wide-ranging upgrade program for the VH-3Ds. Maybe there’s some more life in the old fleet after all. Consider this list of known, funded upgrades:
- Lift Improvement Program, including newly designed composite main rotor blades
- Communication Suite Upgrade, which adds satcom and high frequency links
- Fuel System Upgrade, to improve reliability and crash survivability
- Cushier VIP seats
- My favorite: EMP-Hardened acrylic windows