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Navy picks new presidential helicopter

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The U.S. Navy awarded a $1.2 billion contract to Sikorsky Aircraft on May 7 to develop a transport helicopter for future American presidents.

The new aircraft will be based on Sikorsky’s existing S-92 medium-lift helicopter. Sikorsky’s selection was expected, as it was the only company to submit a bid for the program.

Under the contract, Sikorsky will provide six test aircraft, four of which will ultimately become “operational assets,” the Navy said. The contract includes production options that are expected to result in a total operational fleet of 21 helicopters by 2023.

The aircraft will have a 6-foot-high, 20-foot-long and 6.5-foot-wide cabin. It will be built at Sikorsky facilities in Coatesville, Pa., and Stratford, Conn., and in a Lockheed Martin plant in Owego, N.Y.

The aircraft, also known as VXX, will replace the aging VH-3D and VH-60N Marine One presidential helicopters, which are operated by a Marine Corps unit.

A predecessor VXX program, also known as VH-71, was derailed several years ago by cost overruns, schedule delays and performance problems. The Navy insists it will avoid repeating those troubles by holding development in the new program to a minimum and by discouraging changes to major components.

"We are committed to a cost-effective acquisition strategy and prudent use of existing technology," said Capt. Dean Peters, who leads the Navy's presidential helicopter program office. "Sikorsky’s proposal adequately supports this commitment and together we will efficiently deliver the next presidential helicopter fleet in an affordable and timely manner.”

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