The winner of the next presidential election will be the first to fly in one of six new helicopters built for the commander in chief.
Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, will deliver half a dozen VH-92A aircraft starting in 2021 as part of a new $542 million contract, Navy officials announced Monday. The six aircraft will be the first of 23 new presidential helicopters the company will deliver by 2023.
The contract from Naval Air Systems Command includes support equipment, parts replenishment and spares, according to the announcement.
Dave Banquer, Sikorsky's VH-92A program director, said the latest modifications to the aircraft make it capable of transporting the president anywhere around the world at any time. The aircraft has undergone rigorous testing and operational assessments, including on the south lawn of the White House, according to a Sikorsky news release.
"The VH-92A has flown over 520 flight test hours establishing the aircraft's technical maturity and readiness of its mission systems," it states.
The Quantico, Virginia-based Marine Helicopter One Squadron flies the aircraft that transport the president, vice president and foreign heads of state. The squadron includes a fleet of "White Top" VH-3D Sea Kings, VH-60N "White Hawks" and "Green Top" MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.
The VH-92A will "increase performance and payload over the current presidential helicopters," which have been flying for more than 40 years, a Navy release states. That includes better communication capabilities and maintainability.
Most of the work on the new helicopters will be done in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, with some also taking place in New York, Maryland and Virginia.
James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said the government and contract teams were able to move the deal into initial production at more than "$1 billion less than the program's cost baseline."
Marines in Quantico have been learning how to fly the new helos since earlier this year on a new training device. The replica VH-92A cockpit gives pilots "mission-oriented flight training in a simulation-based training device," Sikorsky said in its release.
"The training suite allows maintainers to hone their skills to effectively maintain the aircraft and practice troubleshooting," it states.