says the risks in developing a new Marine One helicopter to carry the U.S. president will be dramatically reduced by using its S-92.
Sikorsky won the contract to provide its S-92 as the future presidential transport in May this year following the re-running of the VXX program, which had originally selected the Anglo-Italianor VH-71 Kestrel back in 2005 to replace the current fleet of VH-3D Sea Kings and VH-60N White Hawks, a VIP version of the Black Hawk.
The VH-71 program was terminated in May 2009 when costs for the fleet of 23 helicopters more than doubled to $13 billion, mainly due to last-minute requirements added by the White House, causing the project to breach Nunn-McCurdy cost-growth thresholds.
"In the original competition, the requirements affected the air vehicle to a big enough degree that they were essentially creating a configuration that was unique to the presidential program,” said Mick Maurer, president of Sikorsky, speaking to Aviation Week on the eve of the Farnborough air show.
“That added loads of risk and time to the program…that was a contributing factor to it falling apart.”
Maurer says that the new contract is more focused on the aircraft performance, and the requirements are significantly less complex than those set out for the first iteration of the VXX program.
The customer is "going to get an aircraft that is identical to those operated by our commercial customers, a green S-92, an-certified aircraft…and that does great things for the program," Maurer says.
"Then we add the things that are unique to the presidential mission, but you only certify the differences between the standard aircraft and the end product… We will have isolated the complexity to the mission equipment.”
Maurer also pointed out that many of the personnel, including managers at Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) who are working on the VXX program, were previously involved in the CH-53K King Stallion project.
“That starts us at a level of trust,” Maurer added.
“[The program] is much simpler. We have got very capable aircraft, they have decided to put their attention on that without shooting for the moon on some of the other things that might be nicer to have but that would affect the overall vehicle design and add all kinds of time and money.”
The $1.24 billion program will modify, test and deliver six S-92s and training simulatiors to the U.S.in its initial steps. By 2023, the program should have delivered 21 operational aircraft to replace the Sea Kings and White Hawks. Engineering development work is already taking place, and the first of the helicopters will be delivered by the end of the year, Maurer says.