The still-experimental VH-92 Presidential Helicopter will make its first official public appearance during President Trump’s July Fourth extravaganza, according to multiple reports.
Several of the Sikorsky-built aircraft are in flight test at Naval Station Patuxent River in Maryland, south of Washington, D.C. They are not yet cleared to carry the president, but will be operated by Marines and replace the current fleet of VH-3D “Marine One” Sea Kings and VH-60 N White Hawks, both also made by Sikorsky, which is part of Lockheed Martin [LMT].
Inclusion of the VH-92 in the July Fourth flyover was first reported by McClatchy. It will be joined during the “Salute to America” festivities on and over the National Mall by an Air Force B-2, F-22s, and a VC-25, or Air Force One when the president is on board. Likewise, the VH-92 will only be called “Marine One” when the president is on board.
It will not be the first time a VH-92 has been to Washington. In September, one of the test aircraft made a series of practice landings on the White House South Lawn. The maneuvers occurred Sept. 22 but were not reported until Nov. 11 when photos surfaced online.
That was the first of six test aircraft built under the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase, which includes the design, certification and testing of a replacement helicopter to support the presidential worldwide vertical-lift mission.
Plans are to purchase 23 VH-92s to replace the current fleet of VH-3D Sea Kings, also made by Sikorsky. That number includes 17 production helicopters, four for training and the remaining two for testing. The Marine Corps is to purchase the 17 production aircraft over the course of three years, between fiscal years 2019 and 2021.
On May 30, the Navy made a milestone C decision to move the VH-92A development program into production. Two weeks later, Sikorsky received a $542 million Navy contract to build six low-rate initial production VH-92A presidential helicopters as part of the Marine Corps’ plan for 23 aircraft to replace the current White House transport fleet of VH-3D “Marine One” Sea Kings and VH-60N White Hawks, both also made by Sikorsky.
Sikorsky is to deliver the six helicopters between 2021 and 2023.