The contract, given to Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, will cost an initial $1,244,677,064 ‘for the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the Presidential Helicopter Replacement program.’ For that price the U.S. Navy will get six test aircraft and all the necessary research & development.
The Pentagon made a similar attempt to replace the aging fleet of Sikorsky choppers, spending $3.2 billion on a landing pad to nowhere.
Adding in the likely $17 billion price tag for the new project – a number estimated by the Congressional Budget Office – the $20 billion total makes the fleet the most expensive helicopters ever built.
The CBO reports that the projected cost also ‘does not include costs to keep the 19 existing presidential helicopters in operation until they are replaced by new helicopters.’
During a White House fiscal responsibility summit a month after President Barack Obama took office, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain mocked the boondoggle helicopter upgrade project that was later shelved.
‘Your helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One,’ McCain said. ‘I don’t think there’s any more graphic demonstration of how good ideas have cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money.’
Obama replied that he had asked then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates for a ‘thorough review of the helicopter situation,’ and joked that he didn’t see the project as very important.
‘The helicopter I have seems perfectly adequate to me,’ he told lawmakers in the room. ‘Of course, I’ve never had a helicopter before. Maybe I’ve been deprived and I didn’t know it.’