The US Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) has delivered the last T58-GE-400B engine for the current version of the presidential helicopter, VH-3D Sea King.
This year, the VH-3D Sea King is scheduled to be replaced by a newer VH-92A presidential helicopter.
Under the VH-92A programme, the US Navy planned to replace the ‘more than 40-year-old’ military helicopters with 23 new VH-92A helicopters.
Since the time of its start, the programme underwent two engine upgrades before adopting the T58-GE-400B in 1985. This configuration is still in use by the navy.
FRCE commanding officer captain Mark Nieto said: “Our workforce has supported this very important mission with a great deal of pride and distinction. We are looking forward to supporting the new platform.”
US Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) provides executive transport of the President, Vice President, Cabinet, and foreign dignitaries.
FRCE is located aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, US. With over 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers, FRCE is North Carolina’s maintenance, repair, overhaul, and technical services provider.
It has been working with the Presidential Helicopter Programme for over 50 years.
FRCE logistics specialist Dan Smith stated: “I’ve worked for five different presidents. I was honoured to come back to the Gold Plate Program. I got to meet new people, some of them the sons of fathers I used to work with.”
In April last year, FRCE stepped up to take on a component workload to ensure continued readiness of the F-18 fleet during the shortage in workforce caused due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to a study by the US Government Accountability Office, VH-92A programme is meeting cost goals. It is expected to cost $20.5bn for the navy to buy and operate the aircraft for the next four decades.
However, the targeted schedule to add the helicopters to the fleet could be delayed due to communications software issues.