In what could be considered as a major victory for Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. the company has successfully re–secured the right to ferry the President of the United States of America.
Sikorsky officially unveiled the news to the media about the contract to build the next generation of ‘Marine One’ presidential helicopters. The contract has officially ended the years–long effort to return the high-profile aerospace project to US home soil in Connecticut. Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., said the contract is to modify, test and deliver six Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and two trainer simulators to the U.S. Marine Corps. The contract is a long term one and the company is expected to supply 21 fully operational Marine One helicopters by 2023, reported CS Monitor.
Sikorsky had a deep and longstanding relationship with the presidents of US, shared Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn, “Every president since Eisenhower has flown in a Sikorsky, made right in Connecticut. I am thrilled to see this contract come back to Stratford where it has always belonged and where it should have gone in the first place.”
It certainly wasn’t a smooth decision to get the Sikorsky S-92 for the POTUS. DeLauro and Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., said the state’s congressional delegation lobbied the Pentagon to end a previous contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. and Europe-based AugustaWestland. Multiple cost overruns have almost doubled the price of the entire program. However, what’s more painful is the fact that the project to build the next gen Marine One has fallen six years behind schedule.
Five years ago, the Marine One program was canceled, causing Lockheed Martin in Owego to lay off hundreds of employees. With Wednesday’s announcement, Lockheed, as Sikorsky’s principal subcontractor, will get a piece of the long-awaited contract to replace an aging fleet of presidential helicopters. The fiscal year 2014 federal appropriations bill included $94.2 million for the Marine One program, reported Star Gazette.
“With 40 years of experience integrating Sikorsky helicopters with mission systems for the U.S. government, Lockheed Martin has the knowledge and expertise necessary to provide the mature, advanced technologies needed by the president and other government leaders while aboard the aircraft,” said Dale Bennett, Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business, in a statement. Incidentally, Sikorsky is the principal sub–contractor of Lockheed Martin for the presidential helicopters.
According to the Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps currently operates 11 VH-3D and eight VH-60N helicopters. To get the idea of their age, consider the facts; The VH-3Ds were put in service in 1974, while the VH-60s entered service in the 1980s.
The S–92 is a very reliable helicopter, currently already ferrying 10 heads of state around the world. With long range operating capability, the helicopter even in its standard version, comes with an impressive set of specifications including, rapid ascend and descend, emergency landing, complete night vision and flying capabilities and top–of–the–line reconnaissance gear.
With the new Sikorsky S-92, the President is sure to fly in one of the most sophisticated aircraft, beside the Air Force One.
[Images via Bing]