Navy Launches Effort To Replace Presidential Helicopters

 - November 30, 2012, 11:40 AM
The U.S. Navy is launching a new effort to replace the Presidential helicopter fleet operated by Marine Helicopter Squadron One, including the Sikorsky VH-3D executive transport shown above. (Photo: Chris Pocock)

The U.S. Navy released a draft request for proposals (RFP) for the long-delayed VXX Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program on November 23. The draft RFP revives an acquisition program that was cancelled more than three years ago. The formal RFP is expected to follow early next year.

The VXX aircraft will replace the fleet of 19 aging Sikorsky VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters operated by Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) for presidential and VIP transport. In January 2005 the Navy selected Lockheed Martin’s VH-71 Kestrel version of the AgustaWestland AW101 for the 23-aircraft requirement. But after spending nearly $3 billion on development, the Pentagon terminated the program in June 2009 due to cost overruns.

Lessons learned from that experience are reflected in the draft RFP. “It is the government’s desire to hold development to an absolute minimum on the VXX program and focus the program effort on integration of mature subsystems on a mature platform,” the document states. “While minor changes to the platform to accommodate integration of subsystems are inevitable, change to major components such as drive train, rotors, engines and basic structure is highly discouraged.” The Navy said its PMA-274 Presidential Helicopters Program Office is working with the Naval Air Warfare Center-Aircraft Division to assemble an “executive communications suite” to meet the VXX communications subsystem requirements using commercial off-the-shelf components.

In September, Northrop Grumman and AgustaWestland said they had teamed to offer the three-engine AW101 for the VXX requirement. Lockheed Martin is now teamed with Sikorsky Aircraft, which has said it will offer the S-92 for the program. The Navy also plans to acquire 12 Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors that HMX-1 will fly in a supporting role in place of its CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters.