Marine One is the code for a Marine Corps helicopter carrying the President of the United States. It is the helicopter equivalent of Air Force One, which is the code (call sign) of the President's airplane. Most often, it denotes a helicopter operated by the Marine Helicopter Squadron 1, or the HMX-1 squadron of the Marine Corps, nicknamed 'Nighthawks', dedicated to the transportation of the President and other American dignitaries.
Did You Know?The code for a helicopter carrying the Vice President of the United States of America is Marine Two.
At present, one of two helicopters is generally used, both manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation: the VH-3D Sea King or the VH-60N White Hawk.
Helicopters weren't used as Presidential vehicles until 1957, during the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. He used a Bell UH-13J 'Sioux' helicopter to travel from the White House to his summer home in Pennsylvania. This was due to the fact that neither destination was able to provide suitable runways for the Presidential airplane, Air Force One.
Seeing the usefulness of helicopters for Presidential travel, President Eisenhower commissioned a UH-34D Seahorse helicopter, manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft. The White House South Lawn was established as the landing pad for the President's helicopter.
In 1961, the Sikorsky VH-3A, an early variant of the current 3D, became the Presidential helicopter. Some were replaced by the 3D version in 1978, with the rest being replaced by the 60N White Hawk in 1987. Both were subsequently successively changed to incorporate new technologies to make it safer.
Marine One leaving the White House
Marine One wasn't actually an exclusively Marine Corps undertaking until 1976. Before this, the duty was shared with the U.S. Army. The call sign of an Army helicopter carrying the President was Army One. It is now the call sign of any Army aircraft carrying the President.
After the 9/11 attacks, the United States Navy was given the task of developing a new Marine One helicopter, since the existing ones were lagging behind in terms of security and had become too heavy to install new measures. The program, named VXX, drew flak when the high costs were revealed. Due to factors that manufacturers Lockheed Martin and the Navy blamed on each other, each new helicopter, named VH-71, would cost more than an Air Force One Boeing VC-25 airplane! The program was canceled in 2009; by that time, the expected cost of USD 6.1 billion had more than doubled!
In May 2014, a new contract to build the new fleet of 21 Marine One helicopters was awarded once again to Sikorsky Aircraft. It is expected to be operational by 2023, at which point they will replace the currently used Sea Kings and White Hawks.
Barack Obama (2nd from left) leaving Marine One
➙ The HMX-1 squadron is headquartered at Quantico, Virginia, and the fleet is supervised by more than 800 marines. Every member is require to pass a Yankee White background check, which is necessary for all Department of Defense employees working with the President or the Vice President.
➙ Marine One is greeted upon arrival by at least one Marine in full dress uniform; usually two marines are present, with one taking the role of an armed guard.
➙ Marine One helicopters always fly along with 3-5 identical helicopters acting as decoys. They also constantly switch positions during the flight to keep the President's location hidden.
Marine One flying with identical helicopters
➙ They are equipped with flares for protection against heat-seeking missiles, chaff (fine particles of metal or plastic that cloud the enemy's radar screen) for protection against radar-guided missiles, and AN/ALQ-144A for protection against infrared-guided missiles.