VH-92 Marine One
The newly-built VH-92 Marine One helicopter was grounded after a November 2021 Pentagon test failure, and there was no certainty on when or if its issues can be fixed. Biden’s first flight on the chopper, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., was delayed after testing found it to be not “operationally suitable” and unreliable for emergency situations, according to Bloomberg. The $217 million VH-92 helicopter is part of a $5 billion program replacing vehicles used by the president and other officials, but an unnamed source told Bloomberg there was no timeline for when or if the grounded helicopter will be operational.
The equipment did meet the required standards during September testing when it was determined it was “operationally effective” and could safely transport the president to locations like Camp David. It was, however, not cleared for emergency flights due to technical issues, like a delay in the communications systems. “Engine exhaust and fluid discharge” have also caused problems, according to the test, as it limits available landing sites for the helicopter. The presidential helicopter was previously supposed to be ready for missions in July 2021, a date that was already pushed back by a year.
The Marine Corps’ HMX-1 squadron currently uses two types of helicopters—the VH-3D and the VH-60N—to carry out the presidential helicopter mission. Over the years, modifications and improvements have been made to both helicopters, which added weight to the aircraft—decreasing other aspects of mission capability, like range, and limiting the ability to incorporate future improvements because of the negative effect of further weight growth. In January 2005, the Navy entered into a contract with Lockheed Martin Systems Integration to develop the replacement helicopter based on the AgustaWestland EH101 helicopter. This first VXX effort, the VH-71 program, was canceled in 2009 due to significant cost growth, schedule delays, and performance issues.
The Navy subsequently began efforts to define a follow-on program (the VXX program) to develop aircraft to replace the current, aging presidential helicopter fleet. In March 2011 the Navy sent DOD its VXX analysis of alternatives [AOA] study. OSD officials concluded that the AOA found no acceptable alternative for moving the VXX effort forward — one for which a balance of resources (cost and schedule) was reached with user needs (requirements). OSD and the Navy subsequently decided to update the analysis of alternatives using an acquisition strategy that might result in a more timely and affordable program using additional guidance provided by OSD in December 2011.
Since then, the Navy reduced the helicopter’s passenger capacity, range, transportability, operational availability, airspeed, and hover performance requirements. These performance trade-offs allowed the Navy to adopt a streamlined acquisition approach that involves integrating mature communications and mission systems into an existing commercial or military helicopter that is already in production without the need for a technology development phase. The Navy expected this approach to lower the program’s cost, shorten its schedule, and reduce its risk.
Competitive prototyping, which involves commercial, government, or academic sources producing early prototypes of weapon systems or critical subsystems, can help Department of Defense (DOD) programs reduce technical risk, refine requirements,validate designs and cost estimates, and evaluate manufacturing processes prior to makingmajor commitments of resources.The Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, as amended (WSARA), requires the Secretary of Defense to modify guidance to ensure that the acquisition strategy for each majordefense acquisition program provides for competitive prototypes before Milestone B approval — which authorizes entry into system development — unless the Milestone Decision Authority waives the requirement.
On July 10, 2013, DOD provided notice that it had waived the competitive prototyping requirement for the VXX Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program. The Navy concluded that requiring competitive prototyping would delay fielding an initial operational capability by 16 months and increase development costs by about $782 million to $3.38 billion (in base year 2011 dollars), depending on the type and number of prototypes. The Navy also estimated that the more costly system-level prototyping strategies could achieve an estimated $542 million (in base year 2011 dollars) in life-cycle cost benefits by improving the reliability of the aircraft, which in turn could reduce the number of helicopters required.
AgustaWestland and Northrop Grumman partnered to offer the AW101 three-engined helicopter for the VXX requirement to replace the aging fleet of Sikorsky VH-60 Whitehawks and VH-3 Sea Kings, but decided in July 2013 to withdraw after analyzing the request for proposal. Boeing decided not to participate in the program with either the V-22 Osprey it jointly produced with Bell or the CH-47 Chinook. This left Sikorsky and system integrator Lockheed Martin as the sole bidder, offering Sikorsky’s H-92 which had lost to the AW101 in the first VXX competition.
Members of the All-American VH-92 Team collaborated to respond to the US Navy's Request for Proposal (RFP) for the VXX competition, the US Government's official designation for the Presidential helicopter replacement program.
The Presidential version of the aircraft, the VH-92, would have featured uprated engines and enhanced safety features, all brought together in an airframe to provide Presidential comfort and security. Like all S-92s, the VH-92 had key safety features that were certified to the world's then most demanding rotorcraft safety standards: FAR Part 29, Amendment 45. These included flaw tolerant components, tested to perform perfectly even when known defects have been introduced, engine-out performance that allows pilots to fly home or land safely at mission weights, triple electrical systems, triple hydraulics with automatic leak detection; redundant, separated flight controls, and a unique redundant, suction feed fuel system that eliminates dangerous pressurized fuel leaks.
Other safety features included fuel cells that were external to the passenger cabin and self-sealing, rated to withstand up to 23 mm ballistic strike. The aircraft was protected against lightning strikes, high intensity radiation fields, and icing conditions throughout the expected mission envelope. Turbine burst protection and resistance to bird strikes were also designed in, features unique among aircraft competing for the Presidential mission. Other VH-92 standard safety features included ballistic tolerance to deal with ground threats.
The VH-92 built on all the lessons about reliability and safety that Sikorsky had learned through more than five million flight hours of the H-60 (S-70) family helicopters. Versions of those robust machines were flown by every branch of the United States armed forces, and by the governments of 25 nations outside the United States.
Sikorsky had provided helicopters to the White House for every President since Dwight D. Eisenhower. That wealth of experience was behind many design decisions that went into the VH-92. For example, even though the VH-92's cabin was larger than that of the current Presidential fleet, the VH-92 was the only helicopter competing for the White House mission that required no disassembly to fit inside either C-5 or C-17 transport aircraft.
Sikorsky also had a fully DoD security-compliant manufacturing and support infrastructure already in place. This was a key advantage for the accelerated schedule on which these aircraft was to be procured, allowing Sikorsky to provide mission-ready VH-92s by the initially project IOC date of 2008.
Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation announced in January 2004 the formation of the All-American VH-92 Team, an enhanced set of all-American alliances for its bid to win the next generation Presidential helicopter. The proposed VH-92 variant and the empennages would not have been built in China, as with the S-92.
The members of the All American VH-92 Team included:
- Sikorsky Aircraft, of Stratford, Connecticut, who would lead the team and serve as the prime system integrator, including aircraft and system design, component manufacturing, final assembly and in-service support.
- FlightSafety International, of New York, New York, who would provide simulation and training equipment.
- L-3 Communications Integrated Systems, headquartered in Greenville, Texas, who would provide mission communications systems and the aircraft interior furnishings.
- Northrop Grumman, of Rolling Meadows, Illinois and San Jose, California, who would provide aircraft survivability systems.
- Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who would provide major cockpit systems.
- Vought Aircraft Industries, Dallas, Texas, who would provide integrated aerostructures.
- General Electric Aircraft Engines, of Lynn, Massachusetts, who would supply its CT7-8C engine.
This alliance was previously announced at the 2003 Paris Air Show.
The Department of Defense announced on 28 January 2005, that the team led by Lockheed Martin Systems Integration, Owego, New York, had been selected to build the new presidential helicopter (VXX) based on its US101 Marine One medium lift helicopter. This $1.7 billion, cost plus award fee contract was expected to launch the VXX program's system development and demonstration phase during which the program would integrate a "system of systems" with a modern, in-production aircraft to provide the president with safe and reliable helicopter transportation. This first effort, the VH-71 program, was canceled in 2009 due to significant cost growth, schedule delays, and performance issues.
The US Navy announced May 07, 2014 that Sikorsky Aircraft, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., was selected to build the next fleet of Marine One helicopters for the Office of the President. With the selection comes a $1.24 billion Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract to modify, test and deliver six FAA-certified S-92 helicopters and two trainer simulators to the U.S. Marine Corps. Covering a period of performance into late 2020, the fixed price incentive firm contract is the initial step to providing, by 2023, a VXX Presidential Helicopter Replacement fleet totaling 21 operational aircraft.
Of the six contracted aircraft, two would be designated Engineering Development Models (EDM), enabling the Department of the Navy at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland to test the platform’s flight performance and mission communication system capabilities as certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. Sikorsky is contracted to deliver the two EDM aircraft during 2018. The remaining four aircraft — designated System Demonstration Test Articles (SDTA) — would perform operational test and evaluation, and then transition to operational status. Sikorsky will deliver two training simulators (one each for maintainers and pilots) ahead of aircraft deliveries in 2018.
By early 2019, the Navy was expected to place orders for the first of three lots of 17 production aircraft. Sikorsky expected to complete delivery of these production aircraft by 2023.
The Sikorsky team would produce the aircraft in four distinct stages.
- Assembly of the baseline “commercial off-the-shelf” flight-certified aircraft will occur at the company’s S-92 production facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.
- At a secure facility in its Stratford, Connecticut, headquarters, Sikorsky will perform aircraft modifications to meet the requirements of the presidential mission.
- Later, at a secure facility in Owego, New York principal subcontractor Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training will install the integrated communications and mission systems.
- When aircraft are returned to Stratford, Sikorsky will install the presidential interior into the 6-foot-high by 20-foot-long by 6.5-foot-wide cabin, and deliver the completed aircraft to the U.S. Navy.
“We are honored by this news and the vote of confidence in the Sikorsky team and the proven S-92 platform,” said Sikorsky President Mick Maurer. “For 57 years, our company has been trusted with the critical responsibility of building and supporting a safe and reliable helicopter fleet for the President of the United States. We are proud of our record and the bright future for our company. We stand ready to deliver the next Marine One, the world’s most advanced executive transport helicopter.”
Ten states currently flew the dual-engine, medium-lift S-92 helicopter for their head of state missions. Since 2004, Sikorsky had delivered more than 200 S-92 helicopters, predominantly to operators serving the worldwide offshore oil and gas industry, and for civil search and rescue. Sikorsky submitted its VXX proposal for an existing, in-production helicopter platform to the Navy in August 2013, following a Request for Proposals in May 2013.
On February 8, 2021 Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a Lockheed Martin Co., Stratford, Conn., was awarded a $478,605,019 firm-fixed-price modification (P00102) to a previously awarded contract (N0001914C0050). This modification exercises options for the procurement of five Lot Three low rate initial production Presidential Helicopters Replacement Program (VH-92A) aircraft, and associated interim contractor support, two cabin interior reconfiguration kits, support equipment, initial spares, and system parts replenishment. Work will be performed in Stratford, Conn. (50 percent); Coatesville, Penn., (36 percent); Owego, N.Y., (10 percent); Patuxent River, Md., (2 percent); Phoenix, Ariz., (1 percent); and Quantico, Va., (1 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2023. Fiscal 2021 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount $478,605,019 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.
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