Rotorcraft Report: Marine Helicopters Exceed Budget

By Staff Writer | March 1, 2009


Congress is now reviewing cost overruns in the U.S. Marines’ acquisition of new UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters. The review is in line with the Nunn-McCurdy law on monitoring military spending. Under Nunn-McCurdy, Congress must be alerted whenever a military acquisition program goes over budget by 15 percent. At 25 percent, Congress has the right to terminate the program unless convinced not to do so by the secretary of defense.

In this instance, the UH-1Y/AH-1Z overruns are not due to program mismanagement, but rather the need for more helicopters to serve a growing Marine Corps. Specifically, the original acquisition program called for 100 UH-1Ys and 180 AH-1Zs to replace aging UH-1N and AH-1W aircraft. However, since the Marines have been deliberately expanded to keep up with overseas deployments, "our program of record is currently 123 and 226 respectively," said Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Josh Diddams. "This increase is a direct result of the Marine Corps’ growth to 202,000 active duty Marines." As a result, Congress is not expected to interfere in the program’s current direction.

The Marines started receiving their new helicopters in January 2007, and will continue to do so through 2019. They have so far received 16 UH-1Ys and six AH-1Zs. "The Marine Corps (HMLAT-303) began training pilots last year to support the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the UH-1Y that was attained in September of 2008," said Diddams. Training is being conducted at HMLAT-303 at Camp Pendleton, California. "On average, it takes three to four months to train conversion pilots," he noted.


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