A new report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the expected cost of the US Navy’s VH-92A Presidential helicopter programme has decreased by 2.4% since an initial estimate in 2014, equivalent to approximately $123m.

The navy intends to replace the existing Presidential helicopter fleet with a total of 23 new VH-92A aircraft under the programme, which are based on a current commercial model.

Contractor officials noted that the decrease in the aircraft development costs is a result of the small number of design changes, as well as stability regarding project requirements and various efficiencies from cost-saving initiatives.

“The navy intends to replace the existing Presidential helicopter fleet with a total of 23 new VH-92A aircraft under the programme.”

The US watchdog has also revealed that the development schedule of the VH-92A programme remains stable, despite facing several challenges.

Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft has been contracted to convert its existing commercial S-92A helicopters to VH-92A variants, which are set to be deployed to replace the US Marine Corps’ (USMC) existing fleet of VH-3D and VH-60N aircraft.

The US Navy and programme contractors have taken several measures to address parts shortages and track related delays, in addition to evaluating the cost and scheduling implications of upgrading the aircraft’s forward door.

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Furthermore, the partners have worked continuously to resolve issues related to electromagnetic event survivability and landing zone suitability.

The final resolution of these issues is expected to occur following the commencement of aircraft production, which is currently scheduled for March 2019.

The initial delivery of the new VH-92A helicopters is slated to begin in fiscal year 2020, while production is scheduled to end in fiscal year 2023.

GAO has been providing a report on the VH-92A development programme on an annual basis since 2011.