|Soldiers from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit survey the area around Corail, Haiti in late January before boarding a Bell-Boeing MV-22. The U.S. Department of Defense budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes a request for 30 MV-22B Ospreys for the Marines and five CV-22B troop transport versions for the Air Force.U.S.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who often talks about how vital rotorcraft are in the war on terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere, puts his money where his mouth is in the new defense budget unveiled Feb. 1. The fiscal 2011 Pentagon spending plan asks Congress for $9.6 billion to add 117 helicopters and 35 V-22 Osprey tiltrotors to the military inventory.
The helicopters are mostly for the Army, which relies on rotary wing aircraft more than the other armed services. The budget boosts spending on all Army aircraft by nearly $900 million—an 18 percent increase over the $5.07 billion Congress approved for the current fiscal year, 2010. That 18 percent compares with a total defense budget increase of 1.8 percent.
Of the increase for Army aviation, 72 percent is for new helicopters or upgrades and modifications to existing ones. Most of the rest is for new unmanned aerial vehicles, another Gates priority. The Army budget also includes money to create a 13th Combat Aviation Brigade in addition to a 12th CAB the Army is organizing. The Army is using helicopters it already has to create the 12th CAB but will buy new ones—just how many isn’t certain yet—to come up with the 113 aircraft required for the 13th CAB.
“How we will actually end up distributing the aircraft between the 12th CAB and the 13th CAB and other Army competing requirements for aircraft support—yet to be determined,” Lt. Gen. Edgar Stanton, military deputy for budget in the office of the Army comptroller, told reporters.
The move to beef up rotary wing capability includes a 9 percent increase in spending to train aircrews on top of a $426-million increase in service budgets for aircrew training Congress approved for fiscal 2010. One of the Pentagon budget’s goals is “rebalancing this military to focus on current, or today’s, wars,” Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told reporters. “We sometimes have helicopters without available crews, so last year, we increased the funding for aircrew training.” By fiscal 2012, he said, “we expect to be training 1,500 crews a year, about a 20-percent increase compared to before this started.”
The Army budget includes $1.23 billion to buy 42 CH-47F Chinooks made by Boeing Co., $305 million for 50 UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopters built by the American Eurocopter division of EADS North America, and $1.4 billion for 74 Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. UH-60 Black Hawks the Army flies in various versions. The Army is buying H-60s under a joint Army-Navy multiyear contract the services awarded Sikorsky in 2007.
|U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates
Another $494 million of the Army’s budget would pay for modifying eight Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to the AH-64D Longbow Block III version, which adds a mast-mounted fire control radar and other new gear to the aircraft.
The Navy plans to buy 24 new MH-60R Seahawks for $1.16 billion and 18 MH-60S versions for $548 million in fiscal 2011 under the multiyear deal for H-60s it shares with the Army. The MH-60R is primarily for antisubmarine warfare missions. The Navy uses the H-60S to carry cargo and personnel and for search and rescue missions.
The Navy budget also includes $897 million for the Marines to buy two new Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. AH-1Z Super Cobras in addition to converting eight AH-1Ws into AH-1Zs and 18 Bell UH-1Y Hueys into UH-1Zs—an increase of five H-1Zs of both types over fiscal 2010. Bell had been building new UH-1Y Hueys but only modifying old AH-1Ws into AH-1Zs until last year. The new-build Super Cobras were added after the Marines found that, because of losses in Afghanistan and Iraq and old AH-1s simply wearing out, they were going to fall 40 short of their need unless they started building new ones.
The Navy and Air Force budgets include $2.6 billion to buy 30 more MV-22B Ospreys for the Marines and five CV-22B versions of the tiltrotor troop transport for the Air Force—the number scheduled under a five-year contract awarded in 2008 to Bell and Boeing, which make Ospreys under a 50-50 partnership.
The Navy’s research and development budget also includes $95 million to shut down the VH-71 presidential helicopter project, which Gates cancelled last year, saying the project had doubled in cost and fallen six years behind schedule.
The Air Force, which uses relatively few helicopters, is requesting $218 million for six HH-60G Pave Hawk special operations versions of the aircraft, three as replacements for Pave Hawks lost in combat. (From March 2010 Rotorcraft Report)