First Step In Replacing 'Marine One' VIP Transport Aircraft
The U.S. Navy has released a draft Request for Proposal (RFP) beginning once again the process of replacing the helicopters which transport the President under the "Marine One" call sign. The RFP is the first step in the process of acquiring an aircraft to replace the aging fleet of VH-60N “Night Hawks” and VH-3D “Sea Kings,” both produced by Sikorsky.
According to the Navy draft RFP document, "the baseline aircraft from which the VXX will be derived should be certified by the FAA, a recognized civil airworthiness authority with bi-lateral agreement with the FAA, United States (U.S.) Military airworthiness certification authority or possess a clear, imminent path (to be demonstrated by the Offeror) to such certification if and when any proposals are submitted in response to a formal solicitation.
"The Government does not intend to impose bottom-up airworthiness criteria that would drive redesign, but plans to leverage the current certification basis with the cognizant civil or U.S. Military airworthiness certification authority to achieve a NAVAIR flight clearance.
"The Prime Contractor will be responsible for: 1) obtaining delta certification of the integrated VXX platform from the original certification authority, and 2) maintaining continued airworthiness certification of the integrated VXX platform with the original certification authority. In the event that the original certification authority is a foreign entity, certain elements of the VXX integration will require certification by a U.S. certification authority without the involvement of the original certification authority. For subsystems/components which the original certification authority will not or cannot certify, NAVAIR will provide delta certification of only those subsystems/components as long as such delta certification will not invalidate the certifications from the original certification authority."
Of course, this isn't the first time an RFP has been issued in this process. The most recent VXX program was cancelled in 2009 after numerous delays and cost overruns. Lockheed Martin had partnered with AgustaWestland and won the contract with a variant of the AW101 helicopter designated the VH-71 Kestrel.
Defense News reports that Lockheed plans to partner with Sikorsky this time around, but only for systems development. Sikorsky reportedly plans to base its bid on an aircraft built around the S-92 airframe. Boeing could get into the competition with an aircraft based on the Chinook, while AgustaWestland plans to partner with Northrop Grumman and re-offer an aircraft based on the AW101.
A Navy spokeswoman said that the final RFP is scheduled to be released in March of next year, with the contract award projected to come about a year later. The 2013 Pentagon budget includes about $1.85 billion for the program through 2017.
(Pictured, Top VH-71 Kestrel. Bottom Sikorsky S-92)