Construction of the first lot of six VH 92 Super Hawk helicopters that transport the US president has begun in India.
The new generation helicopter is based on the Sikorsky S-92, whose cabin, some other parts and wire harnesses are made only in India in collaboration with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) at Hyderabad. Work on the cabins, the initial building blocks for the VVIP helicopters, began recently at this facility, according to a report by India Strategic defence magazine (www.indiastrategic.in).
The VH variant is a much advanced version of the civilian S-92 rotorcraft or its military version, the H-92 with more powerful twin engines, fly-by-wire systems and highly advanced communication and electronic warfare (EW) protection suites. The Tata-made aluminum and metal cabin may be reinforced with Kevlar and strong composite materials.
Precise details are nearly impossible to get, and even timelines for the presidential aircraft are never disclosed. In any case, all the fittings are to be done in the US itself, and what is delivered when and where is also determined there. In a couple of years though, after harsh tests and trials, the next US president may take off from the White House in one of these India-made cabins.
TASL makes 48 cabins a year, and which six of these cabins are selected for the VVIP helicopters will be decided by experts from the US Secret Sevice, the Marine Corps and Lockheed Martin in the US itself.
Sikorsky had won the $1.24 billion deal in May 2014 to develop and build six new generation VVIP configuration machines, with the number going up gradually to 23 over the next few years and their value going up to an estimated $3 billion.
Signnificantly, Lockheed is now in command and control of all of Sikorsky's famed flying machines as only recently, it acquired the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation from United Technologies Corporation (UTC).
It may be recalled that the Tata-Sikorsky (76:24) venture had rolled out is first cabin in 2010, about a year after the assembly line was shifted from Japan to India.