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Marine One
Marine One Whitehouse.jpg
Marine One lifting off of the White House South Lawn
VH-60N over Washington, D.C.
President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan board Marine One in 1987
A former Marine One at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Marine One is the call sign of any United States Marine Corps aircraft carrying the President of the United States.[1] It usually denotes a helicopter operated by the HMX-1 "Nighthawks" squadron, either the large VH-3D or the newer, smaller VH-60N "WhiteHawk". Both were due to be replaced by the VH-71 Kestrel, a derivative of the AgustaWestland EH101 but funding for the project was canceled in April 2009. A Marine Corps aircraft carrying the Vice President has the call sign Marine Two. Marine Corps aircraft carrying the family of the President adds the designator F to have its callsign become Marine One Foxtrot. Those carrying the family of the Vice President use the callsign Marine Two Foxtrot.[1]



The first use of helicopters for presidential transport was in 1957, when Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled on an H-13 Sioux. The president needed a quick way to reach his summer home in Rhode Island; Air Force One was too large for such short trips, while traffic would be disrupted by traveling in a motorcade. Eisenhower instructed his staff to look into alternative modes of transportation; a UH-34 Seahorse helicopter was commissioned.[2] The early aircraft lacked the "creature comforts" found on its modern successors, such as air conditioning and toilets.

In 1958, the H-13 was replaced by the H-34, and in 1961 by the Sea King VH-3A. Not long after the mode of presidential transport was introduced, presidential aides asked the Marines to look into the White House South Lawn as a helicopter landing zone.[2] Ample room was present, and the protocol was established.[2]

Until 1976, the Marine Corps shared the responsibility of helicopter transportation for the president with the United States Army. Army helicopters used the call sign Army One while the president was on board.

On July 16, 2009, Marine One flew with an all-female crew for the first time, as the final flight of the first female to fly the president: Major Jennifer Grieves.[3]

At a Presidential Inauguration, the Marines offer a flight to the outgoing president from the Capitol to Andrews Air Force Base.

Marine One has never had any kind of anomalous accident or terrorist attack.[4]

Current operations

Marine One is sometimes the preferred alternative to motorcades, which can be expensive and logistically difficult. The controlled environment of a helicopter adds greatly to the safety factor as well. It is also used to transport senior Cabinet staff and foreign dignitaries.

More than 800 Marines supervise the operation of the Marine One fleet, which is based in Quantico, Virginia, but is more often seen in action on the South Lawn of the White House or at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. At Andrews, it is sometimes used to connect to Air Force One for longer journeys. Wherever Marine One flies, it is met on the ground by at least one Marine in full dress uniform (most often two with one acting as an armed guard). In his final days of office, while flying over and landing in a remote area near the Grand Canyon, President Bill Clinton found a Marine waiting on the rock ready to salute him.[5] Marine aviators flying Marine One do not wear regular flight suits during flights, but rather the Marine Blue Dress Charlie/Delta uniform.

As a security measure, Marine One always flies in groups with identical helicopters, sometimes as many as five. One helicopter carries the president, while the others serve as decoys for would-be assassins on the ground. Upon take-off these helicopters begin to shift in formation (sometimes referred to as a presidential shell game) regularly to keep the location of the president secure. Television broadcasters are prohibited from airing live footage of Marine One while it is in the air over the White House. Also, Marine One reportedly is equipped with standard military anti-missile countermeasures such as flares to counter heat-seeking missiles and chaff to counter radar-guided missiles. To add to the security of Marine One, every member of HMX-1 is required to pass a Yankee White background check before touching any of the helicopters used for presidential travel.

Marine One is always transported (as is the president's limousine) wherever the president travels, within the U.S. as well as overseas.

VH-3/VH-60 replacement

In 2002, it was proposed to replace the current helicopters. This program was canceled in 2009 in favor of upgrading the current fleet.

The current helicopters have aging airframes, having entered service with HMX-1 in 1962. The VH-3D replaced some VH-3As in 1978, and the remaining VH-3As were replaced by the VH-60N beginning in 1989.

The British-Italian AgustaWestland AW101 had been selected as a replacement. It was to be produced by Lockheed Martin under license as the US101, with the military designation VH-71 Kestrel, but the program was canceled in April 2009 after cost overruns.

The replacement cost of the fleet was estimated at $6.1 billion when contracts were signed in 2005. However, as of March 2008 the cost of the new 28 helicopter fleet is projected to be $11.2 billion, or roughly $400 million per helicopter. That is greater than the inflation adjusted amount paid for the Boeing 747s that serve as Air Force One.[6] Political controversy erupted in February 2009 amid calls for fiscal restraint, and, as a result, President Barack Obama announced that he had instructed Defense Secretary Robert Gates to review the helicopter situation.[7] On April 6 Gates announced the ending of VH-71 funding.[8]

A study by the Congressional Research Service has estimated that the cost of shutting down production, refitting the existing fleet, and eventually implementing the Obama administration's proposed program could cost up to $20 billion.[9] Citizens Against Government Waste, a prominent advocacy group for fiscal conservatives, has publicly expressed support for the continuation of the VH-71 plan based on the group's belief that "starting over" would burden the taxpayer twice over.[10]

See also


External links



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