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The Presidential Helicopter (VH-92A) program is proceeding on schedule and costs are stable, according to a new report from a non-partisan government spending watchdog.
The U.S. Navy plans to replace the Marine Corps’ existing fleet of VH-3D and VH-60N aircraft with a fleet of 23 VH-92A helicopters. Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation has been contracted for the program to convert its existing S-92A helicopters to VH-92As, which partly contributes to the program’s stability.
The latest cost estimates for the program have decreased by 2.4 percent (roughly US$123 million) due to minor aircraft design changes, stable requirements, and efficiencies from cost-saving initiatives.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in its study the planned aircraft quantities and main schedule events remain steady, despite the program facing development challenges which may affect the ability to deliver fully capable aircraft on time.
To mitigate these challenges, the GAO said the Navy and contractors have recently taken steps to address parts shortages, the cost and schedule of modifying the forward door, as well as issues related to electromagnetic event survivability and landing zone suitability.
However, the report indicates issues may not be resolved until after the production start — currently scheduled for March 2019.
The Navy’s acquisition strategy hinges on three key factors: utilization of a commercial aircraft, integration of mature technologies, and retention of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) original airworthiness certifications to avoid costly total airworthiness recertification.
Initial delivery of the aircraft is scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2020, with production ending in fiscal year 2023.