The VH-60N presidential and VIP helicopter operated by the Marine Corps is due to be replaced with updated versions of the rotorcraft. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy
Nov. 29 (UPI) -- The Navy has awarded Sikorsky Aircraft $15 million for the VH-3D and VH-60N presidential and executive helicopter rework.
The order, announced Wednesday by the Department of Defense, will include security, engineering, logistical support and training, with work expected to be completed by November 2019. Sikorsky has been obligated $15 million in Navy 2019 operation and maintenance funding upon the award.
The VH-3D Sea King is the primary short-range helicopter used by the president, vice president, cabinet officials and dignitaries, and is referred to as Marine One when transporting the president.
It is an upgraded version of the SH-3 anti-submarine helicopter originally used by the Navy and is flown by the Marine Corps HMX-1 squadron.
The VH-60N White Hawk is also deployed by HMX-1 for presidential and VIP transport. It is a derivative of the U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk with some features from the Navy's SH-60 Sea Hawk.
Both helicopters feature improved interiors, avionics and counter measures against threats like infrared missiles. When the president flies, it always includes two helicopters, which both allows transport of staff and makes it more difficult for potential enemies to determine which helicopter is carrying the president.
The aircraft are expected to eventually be supplemented or replaced by the VH-92A Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program, with the VH-92A currently undergoing flight testing.
The original planned replacement for the HMX-1 fleet, the VH-71 Kestrel, was canceled in 2009 due to cost overruns and mismanagement pushing the price tag of the program to over $13 billion.