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US Navy moves to replace presidential helicopters

The Pentagon has launched a new project to replace the aging helicopters used by the US president, three years after a program was canceled due to surging costs.

The next generation of Marine One choppers used by the White House incumbent would start flying in 2020, replacing the current fleet of 19 Vh-3D Sea Kings and VH-60N Night Hawks manufactured by Sikorsky.

In a draft request for proposals, the US Navy said it wanted to buy 25 helicopters and to integrate advanced communications equipment into a chopper that is already operational, instead of building an entirely new aircraft.

The future presidential chopper, dubbed VXX, will "provide a comprehensive and secure communications capability to ensure connectivity between the President and US government agencies or foreign governments, throughout the threat spectrum, regardless of location," according to the Navy's website.

"It is the government's desire to hold development to an absolute minimum on the VXX Program," and "change to major components such as drive train, rotors, engines and basic structure is highly discouraged," it said.

Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin won a contract to build 28 new presidential helicopters in 2005 but the project was scrapped four years later after the program's cost almost doubled to $11.2 billion, amid an expanding list of technical requirements.

The Marine One acquisition program is overseen by the US Navy and the helicopters are flown by the Marine Corps.

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