Sikorsky was awarded a $542 million contract from the US Navy (USN) to build six production VH-92A Presidential Helicopters, an aircraft which will be known by the call sign “Marine One” when the president of the USA flies aboard.
The helicopters are part of low rate initial production lot 1. The total Presidential Helicopter programme of record calls for 23 aircraft to be managed and flown by the US Marine Corps (USMC). Sikorsky will deliver the first six production helicopters between 2021 and 2023. The contract also provides for spares and training support.
VH-92A helicopter conducting test flights over the south lawn of the White House
The USN reached a Milestone C decision on 30 May to move from the aircraft’s development programme into production. Prior to that decision, the VH-92A test aircraft located at NAS Patuxent River in Maryland underwent Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) testing and operations assessments, including landing and taking off from the south lawn of the White House without damaging the grass, says the USN. The VH-92A has flown more than 520 flight test hours in total.
NAVAIR plans to continue to validate system performance and prepare for Initial Operational Test and Evaluation in mid-2020 and Initial Operational Capability in late 2020.
The presidential helicopters are based on the commercial Sikorsky S-92A, a twin-engined, medium-lift helicopter. The new helicopters will replace the current USMC fleet of VH-3D and VH-60N aircraft.
Sikorsky’s parent company, Lockheed Martin, delivered and installed the first VH-92A training device at the Presidential Helicopter Squadron at USMC Base Quantico in Virginia, earlier this year. The flight simulator is a replica of the VH-92A cockpit that aims to give pilots mission-oriented flight training, says the company.