WASHINGTON – The VH-92A Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program successfully passed a major Pentagon test, Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky subsidiary announced today, with completion of a Critical Design Review (CDR). The milestone means the manufacturing and assembly of the helicopters can take place.

The joint Sikorsky/Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) VH-92A helicopter program team met in July with key collaborators from government and industry for the in-depth design review, Lockheed said in a statement.

Sikorsky is working under a $1.24 billion US Navy fixed-price incentive Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract awarded in May 2014 to produce two test aircraft and 21 operational helicopters. The new helos will replace older VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters in the presidential fleet, which is operated by the Marine Corps.

"The successful CDR demonstrates this helicopter system meets the requirements of the [Marine Corps] and gives them exceptional mission performance from a platform that is affordable and supportable for this important mission," Marine Corps Col. Robert Pridgen, program manager for NAVAIR's Presidential Helicopter Program Office, said in the statement.

The test aircraft, Lockheed said, are undergoing "the modification process" at Sikorsky's Stratford, Connecticut plant. The first flight of a VH-92A is expected to take place in 2017, with all aircraft in service by fiscal 2023.

The VH-92A is based on Sikorsky's S-92 helicopter. The program passed its Milestone B review in March 2014.