Air Force Funds Rescue Helicopter at Last Minute

Air Force Funds Rescue Helicopter at Last Minute

In an overview of its half-trillion-dollar budget request for next year, the U.S. Defense Department repeatedly mentions the need to delay funding for a new Air Force helicopter because of spending cuts.

The service wanted to continue development of a new combat rescue helicopter in fiscal 2015, which begins Oct. 1. But those plans were at risk because of deficit-reduction legislation known as the Bipartisan Budget Act and automatic spending reductions known as sequestration, according to the document.

Take, for example, this line from page 6–3:


“Due to the funding constraints of the BBA, the FY 2015 budget delays the CRH program for 2 years to fully investigate lower cost options,” it states. “There is no funding in the FY 2015 request for CRH; however, the development program is funded beginning in FY 2016.”

Turns out, that’s not entirely correct. There is some money next year for the acquisition program to develop a replacement for the service’s HH-60G Pave Hawk, an official said.

Maj. Gen. Jim Martin, the Air Force’s budget director, surprised the Pentagon press corps during last week’s budget briefing when — after receiving a note from an aide — he announced, “Breaking news, we have made a decision to fund the CRH,” according to an article by Marcus Weisgerber of Defense News.

When asked when the decision was made, he replied, “It was made today.” At which point, the reporters in the room laughed, according to the Pentagon’s official transcript of the event.

Martin didn’t specify how much money was slated for the program next year, though he explained the funding is left over from this year: “In FY15 there is no money in the budget, but there’s enough money in FY14 that will allow us to carry us through FY15.”

The program was slated to receive almost $400 million this year, up from nearly $84 million in 2013 and almost $71 million in 2012, according to a previous budget document. The latest funding was for a second lot of two aircraft for engineering, manufacturing and development, it states.

The HH-60G made by United Technologies Corp.‘s Sikorsky Aircraft is the Air Force’s version of the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk, modified for search-and-rescue missions in any kind of weather condition, according to the Pentagon.

The combat rescue helicopter isn’t the only part of an unusually confusing budget submission that’s furrowing eyebrows.

The Pentagon’s five-year spending plan, known in military parlance as the Future Years Defense Plan, or FYDP (pronounced “fih-dip”), didn’t include enough funding for supposed goals such as stopping the downsizing of the Army and Marine Corps at 440,000 active-duty soldiers and 182,000 active-duty Marines, respectfully, and keeping the carrier fleet at 11 ships.

Assuming sequestration remains in effect through 2019, the plan “only funds Army active end strength at 420,000, Marine Corps active end strength at 175,000, and does not fully fund the refueling and overhaul of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, which would leave the Navy at 10 carriers,” according to recent analysis by Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

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I didn’t realize the HH-60s were that old?! Maybe they just got worn out over the last decade+ of combat deployments…

They are not its just money needed to keep the contractor sweet.

The oldest AF H-60’s are 1981 models with the newest being 1997 models. Many of these helicopters have over 10,000 flight hours.

Why can’t we just build some new HH-60G helicopters? The H-60 production line is still open. Why do we have to design a new platform? If the current platform is obsolete, what performance requirements need to met by the replacement machine that aren’t being met by the existing platform? Can we take the HH-60G design and just update the avionics? If the Air Force wants to go with a tiltroter design to improve range and speed, why can’t they buy some V-22s, or get in on the Army’s Black Hawk replacement program?
Is anyone in the Pentagon even asking these questions?

It was SOOO important the USAF didn’t even list CRH as a priority, but some how after L/M, Sikorsky and their Congressional delegation did some serious arm twisting along with a White House that “owes” the trade Unions, the Sec AF “suddenly” had a change of heart.…… and made it clear that the CRH had become an “imperative” literally over night. V-22’s will still end up doing the deep rescue mission anyway. Talk about redundancies.

Nothing but the gov’t subsidizing those two companies. Every time Sikorsky doesn’t get exactly what they want, they threaten layoffs in Conn. and suddenly they get a sole source procurement that the service didn’t even go to bat for.

Same thing with the New Pres. Helicopter. Really vital? 5 years ago the President said his helicopter were “fine to him” and now they are so worn out they need to be replaced in this budget environment .…… in just 5 years? COME ON!!! More sole source hand-outs to L/M and Sikorsky.

I’d very much like to see answers to these questions as well.

1. Why not build more H-60’s if the production line is still open?
2. Why not use V-22’s for this mission: they fly faster, higher, and further than choppers do.

MUST this be an *entirely* new platform? Must the USAF take the Rolls-Royce approach when this nation is under economic strain?

“No worries, we cut marriage housing allowance and enlisted base pay!”

The replacement for the Pavehawk is another Blackhawk variant. Why waste the money just make new Pavehawks with some of the new computers onboard. But im interested to see what the new Blackhawk version will look like.

Too bad CON-gress was allowed to get away with exempting themselves from sequestration!

It wasn’t sole source. It was an open bid. The difference is that Sikorsky is the only one that found it profitable to bid. Read the followup article where the AF cites Sikorsky’s “lower than expected bid” as the only reason they were able to afford moving forward with funding it. The other potential bidders claimed the $7 billion contract couldn’t be made profitable.

I would guess that lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan showed that the HH-60 has some elemental design flaws that the desert exasperated. And considering Sikorsky won I wouldn’t be surprised if they used the airframe as a baseline for this new design. Remember ALL of the Sikorsky military variant are based off the commercial S-70 design. That design is from the mid 70’s . I’m sure they’ve learned a lot since then.

HH-60 $16 mil, V-22 $70 mil. They may be able to fly faster and further, but you still need a certain amount to meet the combatant commander’s needs.

I’m guessing we’ll see a scaled up version of the S-97 that’s supposed to be flying sometime this year.

The aircraft are that old and the stress from flying combat ops in Afghanistan and Iraq is taking its toll on the fleet. The aircraft are flown at their gross weight constantly and the stress on the airframe is causing cracks to develop in key structural components. It is a much needed boost for Rescue.

“These Things We Do…That Others May Live“
Komodo 11
Pedro 66
Jolly 22

You will most likely see the “M” model variant replace the HH-60G for CRH. The USAF purchased at least 4 “M” models and tested them for several years. The official designation was the HH-60U.

5 years ago the VH-3 fleet WAS worn out. The, the President was grandstanding for the press.
The VH-3 is an Eisenhower era design that is going out of service world wide. Even the Brits are starting to replace them.

Remember Obama making noise about CEOs using private business jets???
Mow Michelle and the girls fly all over the planet on “vacation” in a 747.

What lessons have we learned from our SOS Community ?? What do they need since they are the ‘Boots on the Ground’ ?? Tilt rotor is ‘nice’ but what are the mission specifics range-payload
vs speed. Everything has a tradeoff.

The ideal H-60-derivative SARH/CRH would be that supposed “Stealth Hawk” used during the bin Laden raid.
After all, the objective in Combat Search and Rescue is to get in and get out of possibly hostile areas with minimal detection.

Damn shame the Lynx isn’t an American-built helo, damn those things are fast. In that, I do envy our British allies.

Look at the per unit cost on the OLR H-60 $36-38M (FACT). Nobody in DoD has ever paid as little $16M for a full-up H-60 with airframe, engines, avionics all installed. The Army pays $11-13M for JUST the airframe, and contracts separately for cockpits and engines (FACT).

I believe the VH-3 came in during the Kennedy Admin, but yes they are antiques. I just question the timing while we are CUTTING so many combat systems and the continued threat of sequestration that they couldn’t continue to fly them and the AF-1 which they are now also looking to replace. MUST be because the administration is lame duck and has no political cost

Seems a bit revisionist by Fanning. I recall news articles that all potential bidders, except Sikorsky, publically pulling out at least well before the proposals were due. So to say that Sikorsky submitted a bid in a competitive environment is factually not true.

That’s still half the cost of a V-22. It doesn’t quite invalidate my argument. You would still be spending a lot more because you need a minimum number of available units.

Agree. V-22 is a lot more expensive. Just trying to put accuracy into the point. H-60s are not CHEAP. They have grown 300% in cost since the initial H-60 contract award

Open Bid doesn’t mean it’s not sole source. If you have just one responder, and the Gov’t awards, by definition its sole source. The USAF didn’t want to acknowledge it because that would mean they would have to change their acquisition approach. Was a day for contracts of that magnitude that you had only one respondent, the RFP would be retracted and reviewed for the restrictive requirements OR sign the J&A for a directed Sole Source Acquisition. NOT just pretend something was a competition when it wasn’t.

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