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  • Marine One

    Confirmation of New Marine One Contract Expected This Week

    The contract for the next US presidential helicopter is likely to be awarded this week, perhaps as soon as Wednesday evening, according to sources.

    The only known bidder on the program is the team of Sikorsky Aircraft who, in association with Lockheed Martin, are offering a version of Sikorsky’s S-92. The president currently uses Sikorsky VH-3D SeaKing and VH-60N Blackhawk aircraft.

    The US government hopes to acquire up to 23 operational helicopters with a 2020 operational target date.

    Initially, the US Navy expected Sikorsky to be challenged by offerings from the teams comprising of Northrop Grumman-AgustaWestland and Bell-Boeing but, after studying the requirements, both teams declined to participate in the program.

    A current Marine One VH-3D SeaKing lands in New York on March 11. The type is due to be replaced within the coming years

    The Navy has been attempting to award the contract for the new presidential helicopter, formally known as VXX, since the mid-2000s. Sikorsky actually lost to a joint-venture between Lockheed and AgustaWestland in 2005 before a requirements creep led to increased costs and the eventual cancellation of that contract in 2009. The new competition for the current contract was launched in November 2012.

    Many of the issues with the older award stemmed from the US Secret Service and White House seeking a larger helicopter in the AgustaWestland AW101 and hoping to cram more technology onto it. Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Virginia-based Teal Group said that this led to a need to redesign almost the entire aircraft. “There are very few helos in that weight class, and it’s almost a market anomaly,” he said, noting that aside from the S-92 and the AW101, the only other solution could come from Airbus Helicopters, who had not shown interest in the competition. “The 101 looked very good for the mission, but the problem is a bigger helicopter encouraged everyone involved to produce the ultimate, gold-plated product,” he said. Aboulafia said he expects the program to go much more smoothly this time. “Now it looks like fewer people have any kind of buy-in to the process, it looks like it’s more streamlined, more straightforward,” he said. “These helicopters are getting to the half-century mark. This thing has to work. There’s really just one feasible choice.”

    If the award comes through as expected, it would be another in a series of boosts for Connecticut-based Sikorsky.

    This week, the company unveiled the first flying model of its CH-53K heavy-lift test helicopter, designed for the US Marine Corps using entirely digital tools. The service plans to purchase 200 of the aircraft, with the first going operational in 2019.

    And in March, the US Air Force surprised onlookers by announcing it would award Sikorsky a major contract for its combat rescue helicopter program before the end of June.​

  • #2
    First New Presidential Helicopters Could be Operational by 2019

    With a building expectation that the U.S. Navy is on the brink of announcing that Sikorsky will provide the next presidential helicopter (it is, after all, the only bidder left in a race), it seems that the first six aircraft have been slated for delivery as early as 2019.

    In a financial highlights summary issued by the U.S. Navy, within section IV on Investment & Development, and under aviation programs, there is a schedule for the delivery of six helicopters in FY19.

    Further, the document states: “The VXX Presidential Helicopter program replaces the legacy VH-3D which was fielded in 1974 and the VH-60N which was fielded in 1989. In FY15, the VXX program will continue the Engineering and Manufacturing Development Phase to include the integration of systems, production, qualification, and support of test articles, logistics products development, demonstration of system integration, interoperability, safety and utility.”
    While Sikorsky is virtually certain to supply its VH-92 helicopter (a VIP-specified version of the S-92), partner Lockheed Martin’s Owego facility will install the specialist mission systems that will be required.

    The U.S. Navy’s highlight document confirms that in FY14 “development funding continues for the F-35, CH-53K, Triton MQ-4 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and VXX.”

    Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) owns the program under program manager Captain Dean Peters who has wide experience of the Navy’s rotary aircraft and unmanned aerial systems. He took over the presidential helicopter program (PMA-274) in August 2011.

    The previous program to replace the aging presidential helicopter fleet which began in 2003 was won by AgustaWestland and Lockheed Martin with the US101, which became known as the VH-71 Kestrel, but was cancelled by the president himself when he entered office in 2009. The cost had escalated from an initial $6.1 billion for 28 helicopters in 2005 to around $11.2 billion when the cancellation decision was made. The rapid escalation in cost was attributed to a continual change in requirement, particularly regarding the mission systems. Sikorsky will be hoping that NAVAIR now has a clear vision of how the new VXX will be equipped.


    • #3
      Sikorsky-Lockheed Awarded $1.24B Presidential Helicopter Contract

      The Sikorsky Aircraft-Lockheed Martin team has been awarded the $1.24 billion contract to build a new fleet of presidential helicopters.

      Connecticut-based Sikorsky will produce the helicopters, and Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Owego will install the integrated communications and mission systems for the new choppers.

      The VH-92 will be the next US Presidential helicopter

      The Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program is expected to create or sustain 200 jobs at the Owego facility, which has approximately 2,600 employees but has laid off 90 workers since August 2013.

      “We have long fought to get the presidential helicopter made in Owego and finally the day has come,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “This should provide new jobs and steady employment in the Southern Tier for at least a decade.”

      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 new Marine One will be a modified S-92 designated as the VH-92

      Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., is being awarded a $1.24 billion fixed-price-incentive-firm target contract for the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program.

      Under the engineering and manufacturing development contract, Sikorsky will provide six test aircraft, four of which will become part of the presidential fleet, the U.S. Navy said.

      The fixed-price-incentive-firm contract is the first step in providing 21 operational Marine One helicopters by 2023, Sikorsky said.

      The fiscal year 2014 appropriations bill included $94.2 million for the Marine One program. The fiscal year 2015 budget request that President Barack Obama sent to Congress on March 4 requests $388 million for the Marine One program.

      According to the U.S. Department of Defense, $42 million in Navy funds are being committed at the time of the award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

      The Department of Defense said 62.2 percent of the work will be performed in Stratford, Connecticut, 19.4 percent in Owego and 14.3 percent in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. The remaining 4 percent will be spread among Florida, Arizona, Iowa, Vermont and California.

      The Sikorsky team is planning to produce the aircraft in four stages.

      First, the assembly of the baseline flight-certified aircraft will occur at Sikorsky’s S-92 production facility in Coatesville. Next, in Stratford, Sikorsky will perform aircraft modifications to meet the requirements of the presidential mission.

      In the third stage, Lockheed Martin in Owego will install the integrated communications and mission systems.

      “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.

      When the aircraft are returned to Stratford, Sikorsky will install the presidential interior into the cabin and then deliver the completed aircraft to the Navy.

      For the Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program, the Navy issued the final request for proposal on May 3, 2013. The deadline to submit a bid was Aug. 1, 2013.

      The Sikorsky-Lockheed team was the only bidder for the contract. Three companies that had considered bidding — Boeing, Bell Helicopter and AgustaWestland — said at the time they had decided not to because of narrow bid specifications.

      The original Marine One contract was a bitter disappointment for Lockheed Martin.

      Obama canceled a contract to buy a new fleet of White House helicopters in 2009. Under that deal, Europe’s AgustaWestland supplied the helicopters to Lockheed Martin in a contract estimated to be valued at as much as $13 billion.

      Because of the program’s cancellation, Lockheed Martin served layoff notices to about 600 employees.

      This time around, Lockheed Martin is working with Sikorsky, the company it beat in an extended and bitter battle nearly five years ago.

      According to the Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps currently operates 11 VH-3D and eight VH-60N helicopters. The VH-3Ds were put in service in 1974, while the VH-60s entered service in the 1980s, the Navy said.

      The Sikorsky-Lockheed team will provide the VH-92 helicopter. The VH-92 is based off the company’s S-92 helicopter, which has accumulated more than 655,000 flying hours since it became commercially operational in 2004. The S-92 also is used by 10 heads of state around the world.

      “We stand ready to deliver the next Marine One, the world’s most advanced executive transport helicopter,” Sikorsky President Mick Maurer said in a statement.


      • #4
        VH-3D's to be Refurbished Prior to Delivery of VH-92's

        Sikorsky Aircraft has received a $9.24-million contract modification related to the cabin interior and environmental control system redesign of the VH-3D US Presidential helicopter, including new VIP seats, cabin interior kit and special tooling.

        ​Sikorsky VH-3D Presidential Sea King aka Marine One

        The work will be performed in Stratford with a target completion date of August 2016. The US Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Md. were responsible for issuing the contract.


        • #5

          Misconduct Exposed in relation to Presidential Helicopter Squadron Contract

          Three men face charges in a fraud scheme involving the Presidential Helicopter Squadron, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

          The men are accused of involvement in a bid-rigging plot for Marine Helicopter Squadron One, though the maintenance bid ultimately lost, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker.

          Craig Kolhagen, Dennis Pennington and James Bowling have been indicted on charges including wire fraud and procurement fraud, according to the news release.

          Kolhagen served in the Marines and now does contracting for Marine Helicopter Squadron One, known as HMX-1, which provides presidential transportation and is based at the Marine Corps Air Facility in Quantico, Virginia.

          Pennington and Bowling head up Valour LLC, an Abbeville, Louisiana-based defense contractor. Both men also served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Bowling was chief aviation mechanic for the HMX-1 squadron before retiring in 2005. From 1998 to 2001, he served alongside Kolhagen in that unit, according to court papers.

          According to an indictment handed down Wednesday, Kolhagen in 2013 illegally gave Pennington and Bowling information about a three-year maintenance contract for the squadron, including estimates on how much government officials thought the work should cost.

          Prosecutors say Kolhagen, working with the other two men, then pressured government officials to increase the annual maintenance cost estimate from $840,000 to $1.4 million. Ultimately, according to court papers, the government increased the contract price to nearly $1.2 million per year.

          Valour and several other companies then submitted bids to a Camp Lejeune, North Carolina-based committee, with Valour's proposal coming in just under the confidential cost estimate that the government says Kolhagen leaked to the company.

          Valour ultimately lost the bid, and prosecutors say that Kolhagen — with coaching from Bowling — then unsuccessfully lobbied committee members to change their decision.

          Court documents did not list attorneys for the men, and no hearings have been scheduled.