The U.S. military’s new Marine One helicopter is scheduled to make its public debut Thursday as part of the military July 4 Washington flyover called for by President Trump.
Even though it’s still in testing and not expected to fly Trump until at least late next year, the VH-92 is slated to join the VC-25A, a Boeing 747 better known as Air Force One when the president is on board. Two sources with knowledge of the military’s plans confirmed the VH-92 is scheduled to participate in Trump’s “Salute to America.” ABC News first reported the new helicopter would participate.
An Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is also slated to fly over, CNN reports. Fighter jets, including the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team is also slated to participate in the festivities.
Even though the new VH-92 is not ready to fly the president, the rest of the aircraft already sports the iconic dark green livery that’s become synonymous with the aircraft of Marine Helicopter Squadron One. The Marines are testing three of the helicopters, made by Sikorsky, which is owned by defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
One of the new Marine One helicopters made a series of test landings at the White House in September. More recently, President Trump watched one of the helicopters make a test landing on the South Lawn last month.
While the cost of a new Air Force One plane has drawn the president’s scorn, the new Marine One helicopters are far from cheap. An April 11 Government Accountability Office report said it would cost taxpayers $4.95 billion to develop and buy 23 new helicopters. That’s more than $215 million each. But the cost of the project has actually fallen 4.5 percent from 2014 estimates, GAO said.
Just last month, the Pentagon ordered six of the helicopters from Sikorsky.
The project has been much more stable than its previous effort to replace the VH-3D Sea King helicopters, which have been flying presidents since the 1970s. The Pentagon spent $3.2 billion on the prior before then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled the project in 2009.
The new Marine One — based on Sikorsky’s commercial S-92, a helicopter widely used in the oil and gas industry to fly workers to offshore platforms — has not been without problems of its own. For instance, GAO revealed in April 2018 that the new presidential helicopters were so powerful that they could tear up the White House lawn.
“The program has still not fully met this requirement and its assessment of this risk has increased since our last report,” GAO said in its latest assessment in April. “According to program officials, Sikorsky expects to have a solution for this requirement by November 2020.”
President Trump owns two Sikorsky S-76 helicopters, which he is not allowed to fly in as long as he is president.