The U.S. Navy restarted the VXX Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program by issuing a final request for proposals on May 3. The next day, Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) officially welcomed a new type into the presidential fleet–the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor–which will be used in a support role to carry White House staff and reporters following the President.
Responses to the RFP are due by August 1. The Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) said that it intends to award a fixed-price incentive engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract with production options by mid-2014. During the EMD phase, the winning contractor will provide six test aircraft, four of which will become operational aircraft. The program calls for 17 more helicopters in three production phases for a total of 21 aircraft.
The VXX aircraft will replace the fleet of 11 Sikorsky VH-3D and eight VH-60N helicopters flown by HMX-1 for presidential and VIP transport. The VH-3Ds first entered service in 1974 and the VH-60s in the 1980s; both are well past their 20-year expected service lives, Navair said.
In January 2005 the Navy selected Lockheed Martin’s VH-71 Kestrel version of the AgustaWestland AW101 for the VXX requirement. But after spending $3 billion on development, the Pentagon terminated the program in June 2009 due to cost overruns. The Navy started developing options for a revised program soon after, and issued a new request for information in early 2010. Draft RFPs were issued last March and November. The service said its revised acquisition strategy “is based on the integration of mature, government-defined subsystems into an in-production air vehicle.” Changes to major components such as the drive train, rotors and engines are “highly discouraged.”
Northrop Grumman and AgustaWestland announced a partnership to offer the three-engine AW101 for the VXX requirement last September. Lockheed Martin is now teamed with Sikorsky in proposing the twin-engine Sikorsky S-92. “Sikorsky brings unmatched experience having flown every commander-in-chief since President Eisenhower,” the company said on May 3. “[Our] team provides unparalleled knowledge of Presidential helicopter transport.” Boeing has said it will evaluate the Navy’s requirements to possibly offer the CH-47 Chinook or Bell Boeing V-22.
On May 4, HMX-1 officially introduced the first of 12 planned MV-22B Ospreys to the fleet during a ceremony at its hangar in Quantico, Va. The Ospreys will replace the squadron’s Boeing CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters for presidential support flights. The squadron started flying the tiltrotor on April 26. Flights carrying presidential support staff and media will begin later this year.