Expansion of the active-duty U.S. Marine Corps from roughly 180,000 to 202,200 personnel could very well mean an increase in the rotary-wing elements of USMC aviation.
President Bush has approved the "end-strength" increase. The Marine commandant, Gen. James Conway, has told the Corps the addition won’t just be infantry troops. "We will balance the Marine Air-Ground Task Force," including adding rotary-wing squadrons, he said.
Top Marine officials on May 18 were to review a proposal to increase light-attack and heavy-lift rotary-wing strength each by about 50 percent each. That calls, among other things, for keeping Sikorsky Aircraft CH-53Ds in three squadrons slated for conversion to Bell Helicopter/Boeing MV-22s. The Marines also want to buy more than the planned 100 upgraded UH-1Ys Hueys and 180 AH-1Z Super Cobras, and buy new instead of remanufactured Cobras from Bell. They already are switching from reman’d to new-build Hueys. The Marines can’t afford to pull Cobras out of combat rotation for the remanufacturing process.