The U.S. Navy has awarded $542 million contract to Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, to build six new VH-92A helicopters. The helicopters will replace the current VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters used to ferry the President of the United States and his staff worldwide.
Today’s contract is for six VH-92A twin-engine helicopters. Two helicopters are already in testing and the Marines will eventually order a final fifteen, for a total of 23 aircraft. The helicopters will be maintained and operated by Marine helicopter squadron HMX-1 (“Nighthawks”), which is responsible for all White House military aircraft.
The VH-92A is based on Sikorsky’s S-92 helicopter and is meant to transport the President “worldwide in day, night, or adverse weather conditions.” Larger than the company’s Blackhawk helicopter, the S-92 has largely seen success in the commercial sector although a military version exists. The helicopter is also fitted with unique fuel bladders to extend the helicopter’s flying range.
The VH-92 is being fitted with executive suite furnishings, allowing the President to ride in style. Under the skin it will be one of the most technologically advanced helicopters in U.S. Military service. The current VH-3D Sea King is equipped with extensive navigation, communications, and self-protection equipment. According to the U.S. Navy, “(VH-3) is equipped with a self-contained navigation system, GPS, TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system), survivability systems, and crash-survivable flight information recorder sensor. Communications include extensive secure and non-secure communication systems.” All of this equipment will almost certainly make it into the VH-92A.
A 2017 Department of Defense Operational Testing & Evaluation report on the VH-92A program says the aircraft testing process will include “live fire testing,” hinting that the helicopter is armored against ground fire. VH-3D is also hardened against the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear weapon, which can damage modern integrated circuits, and there’s no doubt the VH-92A will have the same level of protection.
According to Vertical Magazine, total costs for the VH-92A program will come out to $4.95 billion, or “around $215 million per helicopter.” A previous contract for Marine One helicopters was canceled in 2009 after costs ballooned to $13 billion. The first VH-92A will enter service in 2021.
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