Bloomberg has obtained an unpublished report from the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation that states the new presidential helicopter is not “operationally suitable” or sufficiently reliable — particularly in emergencies.
The report, dated Sept. 28, said the Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin VH-92 presidential helicopter is “operationally effective” for routine flights from Washington, D.C., to Camp David in Frederick County, Maryland, to Joint Base Andrews in Prince George’s County, Maryland, but not yet for “contingency operational flights.”
According to Bloomberg, the “Mission Communication System (MCS) often delayed critical communications at the beginning of contingency missions and did not adequately support timely, continuous and secure communications.” The report also said the helicopter is “failing to meet the reliability, availability or maintainability threshold requirements” established for the program.
The VH-92 helicopter program is set to replace the aging VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters currently in use. Sikorsky is set to build 23 VH-92s at the cost of $5 billion for the entire program.
The report was based on three months of testing the helicopter’s performance through mid-April. Jessica Maxwell, a spokeswoman for the testing office, wrote in an email that the flight tests were designed to answer one question: Is it “effective and suitable to perform transport of the President, Vice President, cabinet members and heads of state?” She declined to answer any questions about the results because they remain classified.
For now, President Biden’s first flight on the new helicopters will be delayed. There was no timeframe on when the issues would be resolved. Also, two new Air Force One jets are being delayed and won’t be delivered until 2025.