Initial deal for six helicopters totals $1.24 billion




STRATFORD — Sikorsky Aircraft has been awarded an initial $1.24 billion contract to develop and build six new U.S. presidential helicopters, the first step toward a fleet of 21 new aircraft by 2023.


The award, announced May 7 by the Department of Defense, is the culmination of many years of efforts by the U.S. Navy to replace the current fleet of aging Marine One helicopters, also built by Sikorsky, that ferry the President and other top government officials. The Navy oversees Marine Corps procurements.


Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled an earlier program managed by Lockheed Martin Corp in 2009 after the cost of the program more than doubled to around $15 billion.


Ironically, Lockheed will be a key subcontractor to Sikorsky on the new program, which is based on the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter that is already used by ten nations to transport their heads of state.


"For 57 years, our company has been trusted with the critical responsibility of building and supporting a safe and reliable helicopter fleet for the president of the United States," said Sikorsky President Mick Maurer in a statement. "We stand ready to deliver the next Marine One, the world's most advanced executive transport helicopter."


Efforts to design and manufacture a next generation of presidential helicopter began shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which exposed the outdated nature of communications systems on the existing fleet.


Since 2004, Sikorsky has delivered more than 200 S-92 helicopters, mainly to companies in the oil and gas industry, and for use by civilian agencies for search and rescue.


Sikorsky was the sole bidder for the presidential helicopter after other companies elected not to compete for the contract. The contract is on fixed-price terms, with an incentive fee based on the company's performance.