Thursday, September 3, 2015
USAF Seeks Off-The-Shelf Utility Helo
The U.S. Air Force is looking for a government or commercial off-the-shelf replacement for its aged 62 UH-1Ns, based on its "industry day" briefings last month attended by five prime contractors. The $2 billion UH-1N Replacement Program (as outlined in President Obama's fiscal 2016 defense budget submission) includes only procurement funding for 72 helicopters, which presentations on Aug. 26 and 27 at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, made clear. It does not have any research, development, test and evaluation funding. So the Air Force is focusing on military or civil aircraft that are already certified and in service. The 62 Bell Helicopter utility aircraft flying with USAF today are 1969/1970 vintage, and many have more than 10,000 flying hours. Diminishing sources for manufacturing replacement parts combine with material shortages to make UH-1N sustainment costs prohibitive. The UH-1Ns perform nuclear missile-field support, VIP/continuity-of-government, training and test-support missions, but the Hueys no longer have the performance needed for those tasks; this has put the Air Force on an aggressive program schedule. A key concern is whether the service will be able to launch a new procurement program in a year in which unresolved budget conflicts between the White House and U.S. Congress may lead to a string of continuing resolutions that prohibit "new starts."