Considering the massive level of past media interest around the US VXX presidential helicopter replacement programme (particularly when the last attempt got cancelled in 2009), confirmation of Sikorsky’s win this time around with an S-92 derivative might have passed many people by.
In what was a pretty special week for Sikorsky, the US DoD on 7 May announced having given it a $1.24 billion contract to produce the first six VH-92s, to cover off engineering development and flight test by the US Marine Corps. An eventually 17-strong “Marine One” fleet (Sikorsky image below) should be completed by 2023, if all goes well.
Thinking back to the US101 campaign run by Lockheed Martin and AgustaWestland, the cost and complexity of the programme spun out of control once a multitude of additional systems and equipment for the VH-71 Kestrel were required by the US customer. Perhaps the biggest challenge in adapting the smaller and roughly 3t lighter S-92 airframe will be in preventing that from happening again.
You can comment on the VH-92 selection here on the blog, and also by voting on Flightglobal’s current online poll (click here, and scroll down to ‘Question time’). So far, more than 50% of respondents have ticked the “Best aircraft for the job” option: do you agree?