The next Marine One

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.

vh-92 dew

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?

The VXX win came just two days after the USMC and Sikorsky had formally unveiled and named the CH-53K “King Stallion” down in West Palm Beach, Florida.

24 Responses to The next Marine One

  1. jetcal1 12 May, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    Two questions:
    1. Will they know how to say “no” to the customer when the inevitable change requests are made?
    2. Does it have a PotUS potty?

    • Kiwi 13 May, 2014 at 12:06 am #

      2. No, just a hole so PotUS can crap all over the constituents

      • jetcal1 13 May, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

        Hello Kiwi,
        Please see my response to Kojo. There was no intent to inject politics in my comment.

        • arfarfarf 21 May, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

          Kiwi, Ask a silly question, get a silly answer.

        • arfarfarf 21 May, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

          Sorry, Jetcal1. Not Kiwi.

  2. Atomic Walrus 13 May, 2014 at 1:19 am #

    If Canada’s experience with their ASW S-92 variant is any indication, this is not going to be pretty. Sikorsky is years behind schedule in delivering the aircraft, largely due to systems integration issues.

  3. Kojo Addo 13 May, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    This is what the US Congress and industry wanted. This however is not the best helicopter for the role. the AW101 is still the best.

    • jetcal1 13 May, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

      Hello Kojo,
      The AW101 might have been a better airframe, but the group doing the acquisition kept moving the requirements and gold plating it.

      (Hence my comment above. Does the PotUS really need a flush commode and its attendant weight and complexity on an aircraft designed to fly short missions?)

      • DensityDuck 13 May, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

        The issue is that they decided, after the award, that the aircraft mission should change from “get the POTUS from wherever he is to wherever Air Force One is” to “be Air Force One”. Which meant that it had to be the White House stuffed into a helicopter.

        And, y’know, AFO is hugely expensive to operate, so there was some operational cost savings in replacing it with a helicopter. But that capability comes with a cost.

      • Kojo Addo 14 May, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

        Hello jetCal!
        Certainly agree with you that DoD kept changing the specifications and that the AW101 eventually became. My post was really not in response to yours just an observation on the merits of the two airframes.
        Cheers!

        • Kojo Addo 14 May, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

          Sorry correction to earlier post.. part of sentence missing

          Certainly agree with you that DoD kept changing the specifications and that the AW101 eventually became too expensive. My post was really not in response to yours just an observation on the merits of the two airframes.
          Cheers!

  4. Royce 13 May, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    The S-92 is in service and already operates in very harsh conditions in the offshore support and SAR markets, so the basic airframe is okay for this kind of mission. Whether the program is successful will depend on keeping the weight of the mission equipment within the airframe’s limits.

    If they take a conservative approach and just mirror what’s in the VH-3 now, there shouldn’t be any problems. But it’s doubtful they’ll go that direction. They’re going to want increased capabilities over the legacy platform and so we’ll probably see all the problems we now associate with Pentagon aircraft programs. It will be too heavy, will have software integration problems, failures in the mission equipment that ground the aircraft, unexpected fatigue in the airframe, etc.

  5. Oroka 13 May, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

    Well, okay, sure. We (Canada) got the VH-71s as spares for our CH-149 Cormorants, I guess we can eventually take the VXXX as spares for our eventual fleet of CH-148 Cyclones.

    Thanks for the great deals!

    • puppethead 14 May, 2014 at 11:29 am #

      The way the CH-148s are going it’s heading more for a straight swap – them as spares for the VXX…

    • jetcal1 14 May, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

      Oroka,
      You win the internet today sir. A definite 10 on the laugh scale!

  6. Richard S 14 May, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    The question that immediately sprang to mind for me was ‘does it need folding blades and tail’? I know officially its a USMC aircraft but will it need to deploy aboard ship? I’m guessing not, which will reduce weight and complexity straight away.

    One of the sticking points of the CH-148 program (among many others!) was for electro-magnetic interference protection for the composite airframe. I’m guessing VH-92 will definitely get it, which will be a win for Sikorsky and future military customers.

    • Nick S 15 May, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

      Richard,

      It is my understanding that Marine One accompanies the president on overseas visits, so it either self deploys (range?) or gets flown in a C-17/C-5 – hence the possible need to fold rotors

    • puppethead 20 May, 2014 at 10:26 am #

      ‘does it need folding blades and tail’?

      Not so it can fit aboard ship – just because the Marines will be flying them doesn’t mean they’ll do so from an LHD – but they’ll fit much easier in a C-5 or C-17 (although they’ll still have to knock up to a metre off the height). Self-folding means no reassembly-and-test at the other end.

  7. Zegota 20 May, 2014 at 12:21 am #

    Should not all military aircrafts for the United States, be built in the United States.

  8. Rivetspacer 26 May, 2014 at 1:45 am #

    I guess FG isn’t into posting negative feedback. Lets see if this makes the cut (try 3). The few line used to be a great blog to visit. Now it’s disappointing. I new post every 2 weeks is unacceptable. Way to ruin a good stop on the Internet highway. Seems you just post for the same handful of readers to argue over. Lame… RIP DEW line

    • Craig Hoyle 27 May, 2014 at 9:42 am #

      Sorry to hear you find the coverage here “unacceptable”, Rivetspacer, but we have a lot to do and not many people to do it. I’m the only one filing to The DEW Line at the moment, and my new post as managing editor on Flight International means I have less time to post here. Add to that, I was in Berlin last week editing our Flight Daily News publications. Pretty “lame” workload, huh?

      • Rivetspacer 27 May, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

        Blog posts aren’t supposed to be demanding full time jobs. Correct me if I wrong, but the point of a blog is content. All you have to do is pick a day in the week and post what’s on your mind or latest interesting article. It doesn’t need to be a production, just info sharing. Somehow the blog used to do just fine…

        Maybe you should start a group of up and coming college kids to provide you content. Seems like you have a valuable brand, and it’s withering without updates. And losing readers like me

        • Craig Hoyle 27 May, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

          You hit the nail on the head, Rivetspacer: blogging isn’t a demanding full time job in itself, but when you are – in effect – already holding two demanding full time posts then the blog can’t be the number one priority. The good news is that we will have a new defence reporter starting in the UK within a few weeks, so bear with us and hopefully things will improve; please keep checking in from time to time!

          • Marvin 28 May, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

            I feel the same as Rivetspacer.
            I really liked to check in on the Dew Line every few days and the posts have been really interesting. Now i feel both update period as well as quality of content has decreased.
            This is not meant as personal critizism! Just my observation.

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