Sikorsky Awarded Contract for Presidential Helos

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Sikorsky Aircraft has been awarded an initial $1.24 billion contract to develop and build six new U.S. presidential helicopters based on the model S-92, the first step toward a fleet of 21 new aircraft by 2023, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday. The award capped years of efforts by the U.S. Navy to replace the current fleet of aging Marine One helicopters, also built by Sikorsky, some of which have ferried the president and other top officials since 1974. Sikorsky has built all presidential helicopters since 1957, when Dwight Eisenhower became the first U.S. president to regularly use helicopters.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled an earlier program managed by Lockheed Martin Corp. in 2009 after the cost more than doubled to around $13 billion, prompting President Barack Obama to describe it "an example of the procurement process gone amok." The total value of the new program is expected to be about $3 billion, said Marty Hauser, director of government communications for United Technologies, parent company of Sikorsky. Efforts to buy a new presidential helicopter began shortly after the September 11, 2001, hijacking attacks, which revealed the outdated nature of communications systems on the existing fleet. Since 2004, Sikorsky has delivered more than 200 S-92 helicopters.

Sikorsky was the sole bidder for the helicopter after other companies decided not to compete. Navy Captain Dean Peters, who heads the program for the Navy, said the contract was on fixed-price terms, with an incentive fee. He said the goal was to integrate mature equipment into an existing, in-production aircraft to minimize development and testing costs.