Lockheed Martin Wins Marine One Contract

Lockheed Martin wins Marine One contract (CNN)

Photo: Marine One, the call sign for the helicopter flown by the Marine Corps when the president of the United States is aboard. Lockheed Martin Corp. is celebrating its victory in a fierce competition to build the new fleet of presidential helicopters. The Navy announced Friday that the $6.1 billion contract for 23 high-tech, high-security aircraft would go to Lockheed and its international partners. “We are honored that trust has been placed in Lockheed Martin and Team US101 for this vital and highly visible mission,” said Robert J. Stevens, president and chief executive office of Lockheed. The decision was a blow to Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft, which has built the presidential helicopter, known as Marine One, since 1957 and saw the contract as a point of pride.

Saying the president “needs a more survivable helicopter while the nation engages in the global war on terrorism,” John Young, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said Lockheed met all of the security and technology requirements at the best price. Stevens said his team will being work immediately to set up a secure new manufacturing plant in Owego, New York, and an assembly plant in Amarillo, Texas.

Maryland-based Lockheed and its European partners waged a major public relations campaign, with the help of political leaders from Britain and Italy. The British government welcomed the decision, saying it would benefit both the United States and Britain. There was no immediate reaction from Italy. Lockheed’s winning entry, the US101, is based on a British-Italian AgustaWestland aircraft, now owned by Finmeccanica. The helicopter has several key components, including the main transmission and rotor blades, that will be built overseas.

Sikorsky, a unit of United Technologies Corp., and its backers argued that the VH-92 Super Hawk’s all-American parts provided greater security than a helicopter built in part in other countries. But the Navy went with the longer, wider, more powerful aircraft, with its three engines, built by General Electric in Lynn, Massachusetts Sikorsky’s Super Hawk has two engines.

The $6.1 billion program includes $2.5 billion for development and $3.6 billion to buy the aircraft. Lockheed will receive an initial installment of $1.6 billion.

It’s interesting that the winning bird has overseas components. One wonders if the strong support of the UK and Italy during the Iraq War was a contributing factor. Presumably, though, the size and survivability issues were more important.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    Having been on military source selections before I’ll just say that the winner won on how it met the technical specifications and cost better than the competition. Politics has no place in such a process, unless you let it into the process (such as the case with Druyun). If there is some shenanigan, you can bet Sikorsky would be filing a protest pretty fast.

  2. flydiveski says:

    Wonderful. Lock-Mart also built the NOAA satellite that fell over during construction, costing the taxpayer $300 million, and the Genesis satellite that crashed into the Utah desert because of L-M’s faulty design instructions. Perhaps, for safety’s sake, the Marines should drive a Lock-Mart helicopter from place to place, and not risk actually flying it.

  3. Bucky Katt says:
  4. IR says:

    Chris Dodd, Joe Lieberman, and some woman (presumably a local politician) were over at Sikorsky two days after the announcement acting like raving lunatics. The local news showed a piece from each of their speeches before the Sikorsky workers. The common theme (even from Lieberman) was that the decision was “payback” to a Blue state.

    They acted, and came across, like children…or more apt…like they were channeling Howard Dean.

    PS: And where was Chris Shays (one of the few Repub. CT congressmen)? He was in Iraq on his 8th visit to encourage a successful Iraqi election…

  5. DC Loser says:

    Congress’ butting in on the award decision after the fact is to say the least, disappointing. This is playing politics with the decision by a panel of Navy contracting and technical experts. If they wanted a “made in the US” helicopter then they should have specified it in the Request for Proposal. But federal acquisition law didn’t allow for that so that can’t be used as a criteria for award. But Lockheed Martin are the big boys too and they won’t take any crap lying down I can assure you.

  6. To the extent that the next Marine One isn’t “made in the US” is a problem, the problem is that Sikorsky, the company that invented the helicopter, has slipped behind its foreign competitors and no longer makes the world’s premiere helicopters.

    Buying American just for the sake of buying American isn’t going to do anything to fix that problem.

  7. crbn8 says:

    as an American TAXPAYER I am not only dissappointed but insulted and outraged at the Navy’s descision to hand the next presidential helicopter responsibility to a foreign designed and built manufacture. No, that is not a misstatement, as anybody who is involved in the making of these type of aircraft can tell you, blade and rotor assemblies are the most flight critical components of helicopters and all manufacturers condsider them ‘core technology’. These will NOT be ‘made in the U.S.’ but will come here fully ready to install from Europe. Even worse is the fact this contract is mainly R&D work, where do you think that will go?

  8. Johnny says:

    Finally the president can fly a real helicopter.
    Sikorsky should realise that we entered the 21st century, their designs still look (and work) as if Igor self is running the show!! I know, because I fly both Sikorsky and european built helicopters.