The U.S. Navy on May 7 announced a $1.24 billion contract award to Sikorsky Aircraft to begin engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) of the long-delayed VXX Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program. The EMD contract calls for Sikorsky to modify and deliver six civil-certified S-92s and two trainer simulators by October 2020.
The EMD phase is an initial step toward delivering 21 helicopters to the Marine Corps by 2023 said Sikorsky, which submitted the only bid. Two of the six EMD contracted helicopters will serve as engineering and development models the Navy will use for flight testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The remaining four, designated system demonstration test articles (SDTAs), will perform operational test and evaluation and then transition to operational status. Sikorsky expects the Navy will place orders for the first of three lots totaling 17 production helicopters in early 2019.
The VXX helicopter will replace the aging fleet of Sikorsky VH-3Ds and VH-60Ns flown by Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) for presidential and VIP transport. After an earlier competition, the Navy chose Lockheed Martin’s VH-71 Kestrel version of the AgustaWestland AW101 in January 2005. But after spending $3 billion on development, the Pentagon cancelled the program in June 2009 due to spiraling costs and requirements. Sikorsky then teamed with Lockheed Martin to propose “an existing, in-production helicopter,” the S-92, for the renewed competition last August. Other manufacturers that had indicated their interest declined to submit bids by the Navy’s Aug. 1, 2013 deadline.
Assembly of the baseline helicopter will take place at Sikorsky’s S-92 production facility in Coatesville, Pa. Sikorsky will perform airframe modifications to meet the requirements of the presidential mission at a secure facility in Stratford, Conn., its headquarters location. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training will then install the integrated communications and mission system at a secure facility in Owego, N.Y. It will return the helicopters to Connecticut, where Sikorsky will install the cabin interior and deliver the completed aircraft to the Navy.
Sikorsky has delivered more than 200 S-92s since 2004. Operators use the twin-turbine helicopter mainly for support of offshore oil-and-gas platforms and for civil search-and-rescue missions. Ten other nations use the S-92 for their head-of-state missions.