AF lays out helo-buying strategy

AF lays out helo-buying strategy

The Air Force is going to buy its new sets of helicopters the old-fashioned way — with traditional competition, service officials announced Monday. The Air Force needs to replace its fleets of UH-1 Hueys and HH-60 Pave Hawks, and over the coming years, it will ask vendors to bid on both of them. Although there was some early  discussion that the Air Force might try to fast-track its Huey replacement by getting a batch of helicopters directly from the Army, without a traditional acquisition program, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Secretary Mike Donley have agreed on a “full and open competition,” the service announced.

The Air Force’s current fleet of Hueys is used mostly by Global Strike Command, which needs them to cover the vast distances at its sprawling missile fields. Its workhorse Pave Hawks do all kinds of battlefield jobs, including combat search and rescue. Because both varieties of helicopters are so important, the blue-suiters want to replace them quickly, even at the same time as they undertake the “full competition.” Here are the goals:

“For [the Huey replacement], we’re anticipating a summer 2011 draft request for proposal release and the final RFP early fall,” said Maj. Gen. Randal D. Fullhart, a top service aircraft-buyer. “We’re proceeding toward an initial operating capability for common vertical lift support platform program in 2015.”

And here’s what the announcement said about the Pave Hawk replacement:

The anticipated request for proposal release for this program will be in 2012, General Fullhart said. While a long-term replacement remains critical, General Fullhart points out that 13 Pave Hawks have been lost to combat, training and civil rescue missions, and 54 of the remaining 99 HH-60G aircraft are currently undergoing repairs to correct major structural cracks. In response, service officials have implemented a short-term solution, the operational loss replacement program, to maintain current CSAR capability.

Air Force officials don’t yet have a target date for when they’d like to see the Pave Hawk replacement in service, a top spokesman tells Buzz. But one thing the service does know is that it will probably buy a variant of an existing helicopter, rather than a brand new one: “We anticipate, based on market research and industry response to requests for information, that a derivative of helicopters already in production will be able to meet warfighter requirements,” Fullhart said, per the announcement.

All right — what should the Air Force buy?

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I thought the USAF had the CV-22B for longer range CSAR? Why not just get updated versions of the Pave Hawk (HH-60M) for the shorter range stuff.

Personally I think they retired the MH-53 Pave Low a bit early. Weren’t those upgraded not too shortly before they retired them?

It would make sense buy the UH-60, since it is already well supported by the logistic system. However, prolonging the acquisition with a competition only runs the risk that it will fall prey to budget cutters well before IOC. The path of least risk is going with a sole source and issuing a mod to the Army’s existing BlackHawk buy.

Or…perhaps the USAF feels obligated to compete this since they feel that they “owe” EADS NA a shot at this one since they spent all that time, effort, and money bidding for the tanker?

Pitting a foreign versus an American company in defense procurements invites a media circus, along with political interference & congressional skullduggery, not to mention delays, delays, protests, protests, etc. Remember the last go-around with Marine One?

Sole source the thing and get the USAF their helicopers before Congress is forced we’re too broke to buy new toys.

A — Didn’t the Army do something similar for a non-combat, non-deploying support helicopter (re:CVLSP) because they said a UH-60 was too expensive for these routine missions and should be using H-60s for combat only? Oh yes. The LUH program which resulted in the UH-72and the Army keeps buying more of and was the only successful DoD helo acqusition in the last 10 years.…. IS that the down-side?

Competition does result in lower costs to the tax payer, just ask the Tanker guys.……

William — I agree. It seems to me that the USAF has the aircraft for the long-range C-SAR in the CV-22’s. Maybe the USAF doesn’t need a dedicated unit for CSAR, but needs to do what the USMC and Army do.…let it become an additional mission for existing units, in this case AFSOC?

Frankly, the Marines have executed two high-profile C-SAR missions for downed USAF fliers to date, anyway.

With the Budget cuts the USAF is getting with the 2012 budget and with the F-35 program on the ropes I really doubt the UH-1 is going away all too fast. Why just upgrade them to UH-1Y Venom stats like the USMC and Navy are doing? The USAF spends the most money than most services in program which eventually get axed anyway.

It certainly did lower the tanker cost, at the expense of a decade plus delay before IOC. The UH-72 does what the Army bought it for, but not much else. As you indicated, they don’t deploy and aren’t combat ready.

If the USAF is willing to run the risks of delays & protests that were experienced on CSAR-X, Presidential Helo, and Tanker then by all means proceed with the RFP.

Air Force MH-53s and Marine CH-53Ds have alot of time on the airframes. The Ds will be going away sometime soon and the V-22s will take their place.

The EH/US-101 is a beast of a platform, too bad it got boogered up in the politics and not put to good use…

I was referring to the CVLSP part of the article. It’s a non-combat, non-deploying, support mission as well.….just like the LUH. So why pay for a combat aircraft for purely a non-combat mission? Kind of like a civilian buying a HMVEE because it snows once in a wihile.……

As far as the dealys you cited.….Please check the record, but C-SARX and Tanker were sucessfully protested because of problems the service had executing a selection, and the Presidential helicopter was decided quickly, cleanly, and without protest.…..Execution was where it went afoul.

Competition could result in protests. Protest could result in delays. Both contribute to risk. Sole sourcing removes the risk of protests. If a program is cancelled and the requirement is valid, is that not a delay if the acquisition must be rebid? There is still no follow on rescue copter, no follow on Marine One. Yes, faulty execution is always to blame. However, the UH-60 is a proven and very mature program. The contract vehicle is in place. The logistic support is in place. I would venture that the political support is also in place.

Why risk another prolonged tanker-esque nightmare? Administrations could change in two years and the Congress could change. More risk. And who knows…Congress might actually get serious about tackling the deficit before the bond market forces them?

That is a negative on USAF spending on Helicopter side for CSAR. Most of the command are existing Fighter pilots and will spend it on the Fighters first and they forget about Helicopter side.

I thought the USAF had the CV-22B for longer range CSAR? Yes long range to the battle field (war zone) and not over water rescue.

The Air Force does not need a Helicopter. They Need Leadership. We have all these McPeak idiots and friends of the idiot generals he promoted in charge of the Air Force and they are driving the entire Air Force in the Dirt. They all need to be Fired. Start with Mullins, Swartz, all of them. They are purchasing Crap.

Is there some technical glitch that keeps the V22 from flying, hovering, or hoisting while over water?

I disagree with you on the helicopter, but do agree with you on the leadership part.

At 20+ mil each, the venom is hardly a cheap option. They are also new build aircraft, not upgrades, so getting the UH-60M would be cheaper

When did ADM Mullins join the Air Force?

I think the rotorwash limits what they can do over water.

Presidental was a Marine program btw…

Either way they most likely wouldn’t get them on time.

Yeah and a 53 is limited in water ops also. I’ve worked on both of them and they are strong enough to push you under water in like a 20 ft hover.

As far as trying to pick people up out of the water anyway. Everything else is A-ok…

By your logic, nothing should ever be competed just to avoid risk. Hard to believe this is the same country that put man on the moon.…..


Just a thought.,The Dutch airforce whom now also is in action with f-16 are a little sour that our defense minister sold our last Cougars,Do you have any new Pavehawks to pave the way for a good big sale,the men need them ‚we bought 6 more chinooks but Pavehawks 100% a-1 order could pave the way for rescue operations since we helping off the coast of africa also!!!

I’d recommend a modified UH-60. Just seems like a no brainer.

Boeing CH-47 Chinook


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