New VH-92A Marine One presidential helicopter not effective for “contingency operation mission” (i.e. it can’t be used during an emergency)

The new VH-92A Marine One presidential helicopter isn’t effective “for the contingency operation mission,” a reference to emergency flights.

President Joe Biden’s first flight on the VH-92A presidential helicopter, the new Marine One, is being delayed after a report by the Pentagon’s testing unit warned it’s not yet “operationally suitable” or sufficiently reliable — especially in an emergency, Bloomberg News, that had the chance to see a Pentagon testing report, reports.

According to a US official who asked not to be identified discussing the internal deliberations, the Biden administration hasn’t yet determined if the helicopter can be put into operation because it’s still assessing its safety.

The timeline will be determined by the White House Military Office.

According to an internal summary prepared for senior defense officials by the Pentagon testing office and obtained by Bloomberg News, the VH-92A is “failing to meet the reliability, availability or maintainability threshold requirements” set for it.

According to Bloomberg News, the previously testing report, dated Sep. 28, said the aircraft is “operationally effective” for routine “administrative” missions like a run to Camp David or delivering the president to Joint Base Andrews outside Washington for a planned trip on Air Force One.

But the new Marine One wasn’t effective “for the contingency operation mission,” a reference to emergency flights.

As told by Press Connects, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky issued a brief statement in response to the report.

“We continue to build VH-92A presidential aircraft and are pleased our customer awarded us a contract for the final five production helicopters earlier this year,” spokesman Jeff Brown said. “Sikorsky continues to work closely with our customer to ensure the aircraft meets all operational requirements.”

The Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) program office stamped the 28-page testing report “Controlled Unclassified Information,” a new label being used increasingly by the military services to restrict the public dissemination of program cost and performance data.

“The VH-92 report was marked CUI to protect critical technical information and operational security,” Capt. Clay Doss, a Navy spokesman, said in a statement to Bloomberg. “An unclassified/releasable synopsis will be included in” the Pentagon test office’s annual report, he said. That report is typically published in January.

The VH-92A presidential helicopter has made its maiden flight on Jul. 28, 2017 at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, Connecticut.

The VH-92A aircraft is based on Sikorsky’s successful and FAA-certified S-92A commercial aircraft. The S-92A aircraft, assembled in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, is being modified to include integration of government-defined missions systems and an executive interior.

The VH-92A will transport the president and vice president of the United States and other officials. The helicopter will feature the distinctive call sign “Marine One” which identifies any United States Marine Corps (USMC) aircraft carrying the President of the United States (while a USMC aircraft carrying the Vice President has the call sign Marine Two).

Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin were given the go-ahead to start production on the fleet in June 2019, and a test model of the aircraft landed on the White House lawn that month.

The helicopters were expected to be ready for the winner of the 2020 presidential election, but now the timeline for the rollout is unclear.

However, according to a Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot II contract awarded last year to Sikorsky, the company should begin deliveries of six VH-92A helicopters in 2022. The remaining production aircraft should be delivered in 2022 and 2023.

VH-92A helicopter on the tarmac at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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  • Well, to be honest our President isn’t effective “for the contingency operation mission" either so...

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