The US Navy is considering a proposal to purchase a full fleet of the new VH-92 presidential production helicopters, Marine Corps VH-92 programme manager Colonel Eric J Ropella has announced.
Ropella said: “The proposal that we have is for a total of 17 aircraft to be purchased in three years.”
Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky is currently developing a total of six S-92 test aircraft under a $1.24bn fixed-price incentive engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract, which was originally awarded by the US Navy in May 2014.
The new presidential helicopters are intended to replace the existing fleet of eight H-60Ns and 11 VH-3Ds.
Sikorsky successfully completed a preliminary design review (PDR) of the VH-92A presidential helicopter replacement programme in 2016 in support of the development.
The US Navy also conducted the maiden flights of the first two VH-92 test aircraft, EDMs 1 and 2, last year.
Both aircraft are currently undergoing painting and interior installation at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Owego, New York.
Ropella said: “Once we get the aircraft this summer, we will conduct government tests, mostly validating and verifying the [aircraft’s] unique requirements.”
In addition, pilots from the Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron (HMX) 1 VH-92 operational test team are scheduled to conduct an operational assessment of the first two test aircraft by the end of this year.
The remaining four units are being converted from S-92s into fully configured VH-92 aircraft in Stratford, Connecticut, and are slated for delivery in mid-2019.
US Navy pilots are expected to undergo cadre training with a VH-92 training system next year, which will include the use of electronic courseware and simulators.