President Barack Obama steps off a Sikorsky VH-60N Whitehawk, "Marine One," at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is greeted by Col. John Millard, 89th Airlift Wing commander, and his wife, Jamie, Sept. 23, 2014. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
Some four months after Connecticut lawmakers appealed to reverse the decision to pull U.S. Marine Corps VH-3D presidential transport maintenance from the state’s Sikorsky facility, the Defense Dept. has reversed it, news outlets report. The U.S. Navy originally decided to shift the maintenance to its Fleet Readiness Center Southeast in Jacksonville, Florida, which it announced at the end of August.
Local reports say the new contract, announced late last week, is worth almost $138 million for maintenance on both the Sikorsky VH-3D and VH-60N aircraft. Marine One, as the presidential helicopter program is known, is set to be under this Sikorsky maintenance contract from January 2017 until November 2022.
Originally, reports said Sikorsky and the DOD were having trouble negotiating a contract. The move to Florida was implemented to ensure limited program interruption, should the two parties fail to come to an agreement. However, both sides were able to come to terms in October. The move would have affected about 85 jobs at Sikorsky's Stratford, Connecticut, plant.
The systems and capabilities of the VH-3Ds are classified and highly sensitive. (A VH-3D bears the call sign Marine One when the president is onboard.) Marine One’s job is to transport the president and key members of his staff and to maintain the president’s communications links with the U.S. national command structure in the event of an emergency.
Sikorsky remains under contract to build the next-generation Marine One based on its S-92.