Oh Canada: The Fate of the Marines’ VH-71 Fleet

Yes, the picture above shows five of the nine AgustaWestland-made VH-71 helicopters shrinkwrapped and being shipped on a barge from Maryland to Canada. The VH-71s were delivered to the U.S. Navy years ago as part of the Marine One helicopter replacement program. If you’ll remember, that effort was scrapped shortly after President Obama took office due to massive cost growth associated with converting the helos into a 21st Century presidential ride.

The problem is, nine helos had already been delivered to the Naval Air Systems Command at NAS Patuxent River in Maryland. Four test aircraft and five production birds that were going to be sent to a Lockheed Martin facility in Owego, NY., where they would be converted into luxury helos for the president.

After the program was canceled, the brand new choppers sat on the ramp at Pax River until last year when they were sold to Canada for pennies on the dollar despite interest in the choppers from “other” U.S. government agencies.  Now, they’re going to be used for parts to support Canada’s fleet of Cormorant rescue choppers. So sad.

A friend of DT’s snapped the photo above on the show floor at the Navy League’s annual Sea, Air, Space conference in Maryland earlier this week.

  • Kool Guy

    Not really a waste, Canada is pretty closely related to the US in term of defense. Its a benefit to the US as well if Canada modernize their military.

    • majrod

      I’m happy as I can be for the Canadians but it only helps when the Canadians are working with us. Ask the US troops now serving in former Canadian areas in Afghanistan?

      • TMB

        Before we rolled in they were trying to hold down a city of half a million with two Light Armor Battalions. They didn’t do much other than escort PRTs, but the RUMINT was that their higher ups pretty much told them to avoid direct conflict. We came in summer 2010 and replaced them with almost an entire BCT.

        • TMB

          Kandahar city was a Canadian AO. It was handed over to US forces summer 2010 and we tripled the number of soldiers in that city. We had to clear neighborhoods that had not seen any ISAF presence in years. The last major fight the Canadians got in around Kandahar was in 2006. Since then what fighting they’ve done has been around Panjwai just south of KC and they continue PRT escort in the city. There’s not much you can do with two battalions and whether they avoided fights out of necessity or other reasons, we had a lot of work to do when we took over.

          • majrod

            We hurt somebody’s feelings

          • ..KD..

            The force deployed was roughly two battalions in size but they were not light infantry battalions. What we sent was what we refer to as a Battle Group, a operational unit similar to a USMC RCT, only smaller. There was a company assigned to protect the the Kandahar PRT, the rest of the unit composed of mechanized infantry with supporting armored, combat engineer, and artillery elements. We had Leopard 2 A6Ms, LAV 3s (a stryker with a 2 man turret and M242), MRAPs, M777s etc. If Canadians avoided fights we did a lousy job as we lost 156 men in that fight and at one point had the highest proportional casualty rate among all of ISAF. Unfortunately this force was not large enough given the size of the area they were responsible for. Despite this changes in strategy post 2007 resulted in success, most notably in the Village of Belanday a transit point for the Taliban en-route to Kandahar where the tactics used to pacify it helped shaped Gen. Petraeus overall strategy for the war. Unfortunately much of this was undone when US Army staff Sgt. Robert Bales killed 17 civilians in that same village.

  • navy259

    As a Canadian, I would like to thank our friends in the United States for the great deal on the helicopters. Hopefully many lives will be saved through this transaction. I also hope this works out better for us, than our “cheap” submarine’s that we bought from the British Royal Navy.

  • Nicky

    What a waste, but at least Canada’s going to use them very well as SAR helo’s.

  • Torstein Tobiassen

    I read earlier that the helicopters only will be used for spares for the canadians SAR helo’s, they have had problems with obtaining the spares necessary from europe. There is still a lifesaving potential in this deal though.

    I think the marines should opt for a cheaper solution. The thing a presidential helicopter needs that other doesn’t have, is a large parachute in a dome above the rotor and a large airbag below the cabin! :)

  • ForrestCantrell

    Now we know how the Brits feel when they sold us their Harriers to be used as spare parts for the Marines . . .

    • majrod

      No. The Brits may see their former harriers doing CAS for them in Afghanistan. We wil not see the Canadian Oak leaf though.

      • John Moore

        Maple leaf ! oak :)

        • majrod

          My bad, your right.

      • TMB

        Half the Chinooks I rode on in Kandahar Province last year were Canadian.

        • majrod

          They aren’t there now.

  • Lance

    That’s a smart plan just sell the stuff we dont use to foreign countries. Instead of giving them to enemy’s like President Karzi in Kabul for free. Let the DoD make a profit and have money for programs then. Too bad congress wont let them do it.

  • Naska1

    Thanks for the choppers DOD our big yellow helos will fly high and save lives. That’s what matters in the end.

  • Jayson

    Since the Sea Kings are still flying for some reason (Political boggling) and the Cyclone are still not here, It’d be cheaper to refurbish these guys for the Kings replacements like they were supposed to in the 90’s

  • Brian Black

    It’s quite depressing to keep hearing about expensive procurement f’k-ups here in the UK; so it gives me a certain degree of sadistic pleasure to see that the Americans wasted billions of dollars failing to fit a few yards of carpet, a mini-fridge, and a couple of presidential la-z-boys into a chopper.

  • Gmoney

    Did anyone notice that the pic is a mock up?

    • lol

      You didn’t get all the way down to the last paragraph I take it?

    • Mark N

      sugar cubes or styrofoam?

  • Paul

    It’s great that our neighbors to the north are getting them at a discount rate but I can’t help but feel like there’s some patriotic symbolism in the fact that we just sold what was originally intended to be the nations next icon of presidential power to Canada for cheap… to use as spare parts.

  • jamesb

    Gmoney’s right you guys got spoofed again….

    And ANYBODY who thinks selling $3 Billion worth of Helo’s to Canada should have their heads examined…….Gates are responsible for dumping that $3 Billion in the trash for pennies on the dollar….The VH-71 clearly beat the Skorisky in head to head competition…..Only to have the WH Military or and S/S add so much stuff on the hello it needed a fix…..The current fleet is almost as old as the President…..You and I the Tax payer is gonna pay for 13 NEW birds that WILL be AMERICAN made have cost overruns, take TEN years to make and cost DOUBLE what we paid Augusta-Westland to get RID of 9 perfectly GOOD Helo’s….This IS a textbook case of the failure of the military and political legs of our government to get a system right……
    At least the Canadians’ got a good deal on OUR buck….

  • jamesb

    Oh, Yea….
    I know somebody here is gonna show up and mentioned that the Navy and Marines have persuaded somebody to take a batch of VH-22’s and use them for the Non-Presidential Helo’s for the Marine One fleet…..
    Maybe this is back door way to advance that a/c for the Primary Helo?
    Obama ‘s flown one when he was a Senator and Panetta has time in the a/c……
    VH-22’s for the President?

  • Gentry

    Gentlemen, read the first comment, I believe that sums it up nicely.

  • Flight Tester

    More Fraud Waste and Abuse from this administration. When will it ever stop?

  • T-Rye

    The estimated cmore than the most advanced aircraft in the world, the F22 Raptor. ost per bird to complete the program would have been $400M, $61M

  • tiger

    Speaking airplaines wraped and not used. Anbody catch the News about a Squadron worth of brand new Spitfires in crates Buried in Burma? ?http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/04/19/buried-treasure-in-burma-squadron-lost-wwii-spitfires-to-be-exhumed/

    That would be a better deal than the copters. 20 some pristine mark XIV’s waiting like pirate gold for the lucky finder.

  • terry Young

    If you want to know when the wastye and fraud will end in Washington, wait until we see Jesus Christ walking down Pennsylvania Boulevard!!!!
    Waste, Corruption, fraud, thievery,and Scandal is so enemic to the political scene, it would be almost impossible for it to work without it. An “honest politcian” is one that stays bought by one side or the other!!!
    We need to get rid of them all!! start from the lowest job all the way to the top, and get rid of the BEAURACRATS!!!!!!!!they wereNOT elected!!they were appointed by someone, they should be demoted to the lowest level availableand frozen at that rank for 5yrs. All former politicians should be BARRED from ANY contact with Governmenatal employees for 10yre and all pensions should be tied to veterans pensions,or Social Security pensions,as well as medical treatments!!!!!!!!!!

    • blight_

      As if elections were any better. I agree that people who are appointed are rarely better than those elected, but there are a number of civil servants who achieve their positions by applying to a job vacancy like anyone else…

  • grady

    Fuck that start with ending the endemic waste fraud and CORRUPTION that Congress represents the rest of the little fukkers will be running and try to hide. Our system of government has been completely destroyed from the fukking inside out. i would like to be able to hold CONGRESS as liable for the use of MY money and to0 finally acccount for over TWO HUNDRED YEARS OF RAMPANT GREED AND CORRUPTION stupid fukkers i hope they all choke on their ties.

  • Scott McC

    Those overweight turkeys will never fly again in RCAF livery as SAR birds. Hard to do effective long distance SAR with a bird that has half the range and high altitude of the Comorants. A few tonnes of extra wiring, kevlar and EMP shielding, bullet proof gas tanks, and no hoist doesn’t help rescuing people in distress.
    Maybe they might save the 5 production models for basic proficiency flight training saving wear on the Cormorants, but the prototypes will be stripped bare for parts.

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