The U.S. Navy hopes to select a contractor for the VXX Presidential helicopter program — known as Marine One when the president is aboard — sometime in May.
“We are in the final stages of the approval process and the contracting process, and hope to be able to make an announcement in the next few weeks,” said Capt. Dean Peters, Naval Air Systems Command’s VXX program manager at the Navy League Sea, Air and Space conference at National Harbor, Md. on Wednesday. The service hopes to make the selection, “in the May timeframe.”
But the VXX program is an usual one. There is only one apparent bidder—Sikorsky, which is offering its S-92 helicopter—to replace the Navy’s increasingly aged fleet of Sikorsky VH-3 and VH-60 VIP transport aircraft.
In earlier in July 2013, a competing team that was offering the AgustaWestland AW101 heavy lift helicopter dropped out of the competition. Nor is Boeing planning on offering its CH-47 Chinook or the V-22 Osprey, which the company produces jointly with Bell.
Peters declined to confirm if only one company had submitted a bid. “I can’t really talk about the number of bidder or contractors,” he said.
Nonetheless, even if the Navy received only one bid, it must still legally follow the standard process as it moves forward.
Once the Navy selects a contractor, the program would move quickly. The first test aircraft would be delivered in 2016, Peters said. Initial operational capability is set for late 2020 while full operational capability is set for 2022.
Peters said the Navy hopes to buy 21 operational aircraft and two test airframes.
The current bid for a new executive helicopter follows a June 2009 VXX program — won by a Lockheed Martin and AgustaWestland team — that was canceled due to cost overruns and became major point of contention during the 2008 U.S. presidential race.