Marine One

The following entry is a record in the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” – a list of failed and troubled projects from around the world.

US Navy
Project name :
Marine One
Date : Jun 2009 Cost :$13B

Synopsis :
To allow for rapid and safe transport of the President and other VIP’s, the US Government maintains a fleet of VIP transport helicopters. The current fleet of Sea King and Blackhawk helicopters was first deployed in the 1970’s. Following the 9/11 attacks, the US Government decided that the existing helicopters lacked the capability to fully protect the President and as a result a project to acquire a new fleet was initiated.

Following the solicitation process a $6.1B contract to develop the new helicopters was awarded to a consortium lead by Lockheed Martin (who reportedly had no prior experience developing helicopters). The Lockheed Martin design was based on the existing European Eh-101 helicopter and incorporated significant design upgrades to meet the security, safety and communications requirements for use a as Presidential transport. Designated the “VH-71 Kestrel” the new helicopters were to be the world’s most advanced helicopter design. Following the signing of the contract the process of requirements and design continued. Throughout the design process it was found that the necessary upgrades were more complex than originally thought and along with a growing list of complex requirements, the cost of the project spiraled upward. With projected costs reaching $13B (more than $400M per helicopter) the project was first put on hold and then cancelled by the newly elected Obama administration in early 2009.

Contributing factors as reported in the press :
Underestimation of complexity. Cost overruns. Requirements instability and ballooning scope. Poor communications between government departments and contractors.

Related stories :
Helicopters seem to be a particularly troublesome project. Reference also;

  1. UK Chinook helicopter upgrade failure
  2. Australian Seasprite helicopter upgrade project

Reference links :

  1. Pentagon cancels work on Marine One helicopter project
  2. Helicopter Plan Is Excessive, Obama and McCain Agree
  3. VH-71 Kestrel

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