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What is Marine One?

Marine One refers to a US Marine Corps aircraft carrying a US president. Unlike Air Force One, Marine One is a helicopter allocated to the President by the HMX-1 Nighthawks Squadron.

There are two types of helicopters used to carry the President of the United States:
• the VH-3D Sea King
• VH-60N Whitehawk

What is Marine OneMarine One is therefore a call sign just like Marine Two is a call sign for any aircraft carrying with the Vice President of the United States.

Marine One has a controlled environment that adds to its overall safety factor. There are times when Marine One has been used to transport foreign dignitaries and senior cabinet staff. Marine One fleet is based in Quantico, Virginia. However, the aircraft is more often seen on the White House South Lawn or at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility in Maryland. More than 800 Marines supervise the fleet. On long journeys, the president sometimes makes a stop at Andrews Air Base and connects to the destination using Marine One.

At least one Marine in full uniform must meet Marine One wherever it flies. Marine One always flies in a group with identical helicopters as a security measure. Only one helicopter in the group will be carrying the president while the others act like decoys for would-be attackers on the ground.

Upon take off, the helicopters begin to shift formation to obscure the location of the president. Marine One is equipped with military anti-missile countermeasures like flares and chaffs that counter heat-seeking and radar-guided missiles respectively. Just like the president’s limousine, Marine One is transported wherever the president goes whether in the US or overseas.

The first time a president used a helicopter as a means of transport was in 1957, when Dwight D. Eisenhower used the Bell UH-13J Sioux for travel. This happened because Air Force One could not land at the White House or the President’s summer home in Rhode Island. Eisenhower needed a faster means of getting to his summer residence and therefore opted to be taken there by a Marine Corps aircraft.

After this incident, Eisenhower instructed his staff to look for alternative means of transportation. This led to the commissioning of the Sikorsky UH-34 Seahorse as the alternative. However, this aircraft lacked the facilities that its successors have like air conditioning and washrooms.

In 1958, the Sikorsky H-34 replaced the Bell H-13. Not long after, presidential aides asked the Marine Corps to establish a landing zone in the White House South Lawn because that area had ample room.

The responsibility of Presidential helicopter transportation was shared between the Marine Corps and United States Army until 1976. The call sign for army helicopters was Army One. On July 16, 2009, Marine One made history when it flew with an all-female crew for the first time in history. This was the final flight of Major Jennifer Grieves, the first female to fly the president. To date, Marine One has not been subject to attacks or an accident.

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