WASHINGTON – The VH-92A Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program successfully passed a major Pentagon test, Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky subsidiary announced today, with completion of a Critical Design Review (CDR). The milestone means the manufacturing and assembly of the helicopters can take place.
The joint Sikorsky/Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) VH-92A helicopter program team met in July with key collaborators from government and industry for the in-depth design review, Lockheed said in a statement.
The previous program to replace the ancient fleet of VH-3D Presidential helicopters was a disaster, with costs spiraling out of control, and an absolute inability to avoid gold plating the requirements. The basic helicopter selected, the H-71, based on the EH101, wasn't the problem, but turning it into a flying White House was. The airframes that were bought, at stunning cost, were eventually sold to Canada for pennies on the dollar.
One hopes that between the White House and NAVAIR, some lessons were learned, and strict attention was paid during the requirements phase, so that revisions to the contract won't again cause costs to explode.
Even so, it's rather embarrassing that a basic airframe such as the S-92, which has been in civilian service for decades, won't be available for actual Presidential lift missions for at least another 7 years.