Lockheed Martin Wins Marine One Contract
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.