For a long time, “Marine One” has been the call sign for any U.S. Marine Corps aircraft that carries the President of the United States. Since 1978, two helicopters from Sikorsky, the VH-3D Sea King and the VH-60N White Hawk, have fulfilled this role.
As you can imagine, these choppers are getting up there in years. So, in the 2000s, the Marines ran a competition, called VXX, to replace the VH-3 and VH-60. Two helicopters were in competition for the gig: Lockheed teamed up with AgustaWestland (who built the Sea King in the United Kingdom) to produce a variant of the EH101/Merlin helicopter called the VH-71 while Sikorsky offered up a specialized version of its S-92.
Lockheed won that contract, but the VH-71 took a lot longer than expected to figure out. The complications kept mounting and the price kept climbing and, eventually, the Obama Administration put the VXX program on the chopping block. The need for a new presidential chopper remained unsatisfied.
Almost immediately, the DOD gathered suitors for another competition and tried again. In the second round, the Sikorsky S-92 won out. Primarily because the other two competitors, a team of Northrop Grumman and AgustaWestland (offering the Merlin again) and a Bell-Boeing team (offering the V-22 Osprey), elected to drop out of the competition. HMX-1 “Nighthawks,” who typically operate Marine One, will be equipped with 21 S-92 airframes by 2023.
The S-92 has seen some export orders, often for civilian use, but the Canadian Forces (as the CH-148 Cyclone), Republic of Korea Air Force, and the Kuwaiti Air Force all use it. The baseline S-92 has a crew of 3, a top speed of 190 miles per hour, a range of 621 miles, and can carry up to 22 passengers.
Learn more about the new Marine One in the video below.