Two AH-1Z Vipers with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 369 “Gunfighters” fly during a live-fire demonstration on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 1. The unit conducted the demonstration as a part of HMLA-369’s 45th Anniversary celebration and family day. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jake M.T. McClung/Released)
U.S. Army and Marine Corps rotorcraft procurement received significant funding increases in the fiscal 2019 defense spending bill approved June 13.
The $674.6 billion bill was approved 48-to-4 by the House Appropriations Committee, sending the measure to the full House for its consideration.
Although the bill provides about $1 billion less than the Trump administration requested for the U.S. Defense Department, it includes $145.7 billion for equipment procurement and upgrades, or about $2.5 billion more than the military services requested.
That amount includes $1.1 billion for 58 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters for the Army, an increase of $156 million and eight aircraft more than requested.
Another $1.1 billion is set aside for a total 66 remanufactured and new-build Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, an $87.7 million boost and eight helicopters more than the Army’s initial request.
House appropriators added $328 million six Bell-Boeing V-22 to the Marine Corps’ order for the tiltrotor aircraft, for a total of $1.1 billion and 13 Ospreys funded in fiscal 2019. The Marine Corps also is funded at $798 million for 25 Bell AH-1Z attack aircraft and $1 billion for eight Sikorsky CH-53K heavy-lift helicopters.
The committee recommends fully funding the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) in fiscal year 2019 and encourages the Secretary of the Army to funding in future budget submissions.
ITEP is intended to develop a more fuel efficient and powerful engine for the current UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopter fleets, a capability boost that Army leadership would like to speed to the field.
The Senate’s version of the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which is under debate on Capitol Hill, calls ITEP a “critical program” that “will substantially increase operational capabilities by increasing range and improving fuel efficiency, while reducing the logistics footprint, resulting in dramatically reduced operating and support costs.”
Also fully funded in the bill are the $649 million request for six Sikorsky VH-92 presidential helicopters and $475.6 million for the continued development of the Air Force’s new combat rescue helicopter (CRH).
The HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) will replace the Air Force’s rapidly aging HH-60G Pavehawk helicopters currently performing combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations.
The current Air Force program of record is for a minimum of 112 HH-60W CRH aircraft. Air Force studies have documented the need for between 141 and 171 aircraft to meet rescue requirement demands. In its version of the NDAA, SASC supports 112 as the minimum number of HH-60W CRH aircraft to support the validated requirement.