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Sikorsky wins contract to replace Marine One presidential helicopters

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May 7, 2014

A fleet of 21 VH92s will replace the current Marine One fleet by 2023

A fleet of 21 VH92s will replace the current Marine One fleet by 2023

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Airforce One may be the flashiest plane in the US presidential hangar, but that doesn't mean the day-to-day runabout gets neglected. The US Navy has announced that Sikorsky Aircraft has been awarded the contract to replace the Marine One helicopter fleet used to transport the President. The initial US$1.24 billion contract is for six S-92 helicopters and two trainer simulators for the US Marine Corps as part of a development and conversion program that will see a fleet of 21 aircraft built for presidential use by 2023.

Marine One is the call sign of the helicopter used by the US President for getting from place to place quickly and securely. It’s usually a VH-3D Sea King or a VH-60N WhiteHawk, but these date back to the 1960s and 1980s, and after the 9/11 attacks were regarded as obsolete.

The previous attempt to replace the Marine One fleet was a competition between Sikorsky and a Lockheed Martin / Agustawestland partnership. Lockheed won the contract to build the replacement helicopter, called the VH-71 Kestrel, but the cost of the 28-helicopter fleet skyrocketed from US$6.1 billion to $13 billion before being cancelled by the Obama administration in 2009.

Rendering of the VH92, which is based on Sikorsky's dual-engine, medium-lift S-92

The new helicopter, dubbed the VH92, is based on the dual-engine, medium-lift S-92, of which Sikorsky has delivered over 200 to customers in ten countries since 2004. Applying lessons learned from the previous replacement program, Sikorsky was required to submit a proposal based on an existing, in-production helicopter in its bid, which will be fully evaluated before production begins. The six aircraft to be delivered by 2018 will be used to test the flight performance and mission communications of the S-92, with four going on to operational status. Meanwhile, the simulators will be used to train pilots and flight crews.

If all goes according to schedule, the first batch of production aircraft will be ordered with the final deliveries by 2023. Assembly of the helicopters will be at Sikorsky’s S-92 production facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. These will then be sent to a secure facility in Stratford, Connecticut, for modifications before going on to another facility to install the integrated communications and mission systems, then back to Stratford to install the presidential interior complete with in-flight toilets.

Exactly what the VH92 will be like is highly classified, but industry opinion about the previous replacement program indicates that it will have greater range than existing Marine One helicopters, and carry up to 14 passengers and thousands of pounds of cargo. It will also be specially hardened against electromagnetic pulses, carry encrypted communications and video conferencing gear, and be able to jam radar and deploy countermeasures against anti-aircraft missiles, though the combat and communications capabilities may be scaled back to control costs.

Source: Sikorsky

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
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14 Comments

Good. Other countries presidents use this helo as well, it's a great helo with plenty of hours under its belt. It was pretty obvious that Sikorsky was going to get this contract eventually. Since the current crop of Marine One helo's used at D.C. are very old, and require a lot of maintenance to keep them flying reliably.

Derek Howe
7th May, 2014 @ 08:07 pm PDT

Huh?

21 aircraft custom-built for the President?

Since when did he start to think he was a King? I do think we should treat our Presidents well, but this is pretty extreme.

Anne Ominous
7th May, 2014 @ 11:31 pm PDT

I think it is nice they chose Sikorsky since it is made in the USA. It looks like a really nice design. Even though it is good to replace the aging ones with new ones, 21 new helicopters for the president does seem extreme. If they were also used by the other branches of the federal government, it would make more sense.

I read that they were checking out tilt rotor helicopters for use as a means to transport the president. They spent a lot of money on those only to have them not be used to transport the president for 'safety reasons'. I find that a shame since the tilt rotor helicopters are even cooler than the one they chose.

BigGoofyGuy
8th May, 2014 @ 06:30 am PDT

21 seems like a large number. It only takes 6 to make a squadron. Currently , the Marine One Helicopter is a Sikorsky VH-3, and I thought they were going to be replaced by the VH-101, which has three engines.

James Donohue
8th May, 2014 @ 09:07 am PDT

Like everyone else, 21 does seem a bit much. If the Pope can downsize then why cant the President? I can see a few as decoys, some having maintenance done and a couple specialty ones but that would put you at around 12 max. I thought this president was all about global warming and the effects humans have on it and we need to be more "green". I would really like to know why so many. These are incredible machines and would like to see more about them.

MG48
8th May, 2014 @ 11:09 am PDT

Billion ? Ike's parting words were "beware the military/industrial complex ." This is why our Nat'l debt is so high.

olwrench
8th May, 2014 @ 11:50 am PDT

The old price of $13 billion for 28 helicopters is off the charts expensive. Israel only has $14.6 billion a year in total military spending. Iran is $6 billion.

Daishi
8th May, 2014 @ 01:38 pm PDT

I remember when the gov awarded the Marine One contract to a French company.

That didn't go over well with the public or American helicopter companies! The deal was quickly ended.

Looks like the wrangling over which American company got the deal went on for some years after.

Gregg Eshelman
8th May, 2014 @ 03:04 pm PDT

Prime Minister of Australia recently flew to Paris for an official meeting with the French President.

He flew economy class on a regular airplane at the back of the plane with the regular folks. Cost his taxpayers about $1,500 for round trip airfare on Quantas.

That's a 21 hour flight each way.

Compare that to Obama. Round trip to Paris would cost about $100 million.

Oh yes I know Obama is a VIP and needs security. But the PM of Australia is also a VIP and needs security too.

robo
8th May, 2014 @ 03:18 pm PDT

Museumize Marine 1 at some air musuem or Presidential library center alone for display, be awesome

Only Reagen Library has latest then 707 AF1 model ( that AF still owns).

Stephen N Russell
8th May, 2014 @ 04:23 pm PDT

Did any of you guys complaining about 21 new copters notice that the previous contract Bush awarded was for 28? And did you know that the current aging fleet is 19 aircraft? Or how about the fact that the new fleet won't even begin to enter service for another four years, long after "King" Obama is out of office and won't benefit from it? The final deliveries in 2023 are near the end of even his successor's term of office. This hyperpartisanship really seems to bring out selective blindness.

Gadgeteer
8th May, 2014 @ 08:48 pm PDT

I would greatly prefer for the new Marine One fleet to be made up of V-22s.

@ robo

Outside of domestic politics why would anyone assassinate the PM of Australia? What did he do for secure communications prepay cell phones?

Slowburn
10th May, 2014 @ 01:24 am PDT

The S-92's have a great reputation. The current fleet of "white tops" as they are called go back to the Nixon administration. It's time for an upgrade. Glad to see they went with Sikorsky's proven and existing model.

Charles G. Gage
10th May, 2014 @ 07:12 pm PDT

I complained about Bush's excesses as I do about this President's.

The good thing about having two Presidents in a row spend like drunken sailors is that now EVERYONE is getting pissed off. THAT is the only way something might be done to reign all government spending in.

Personally I think they should travel by dirigible...I mean what's the hurry?

Joseph Boe
12th May, 2014 @ 01:53 pm PDT
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