Covering the Field

A new security helicopter is critical for Air Force Space Command to be able to protect the nation’s ICBM complexes in the post 9/11 world, Gen. Robert Kehler, who heads the command, said last week. “We need a new helicopter because we are changing the concept of operation that we have to do missile field security,” Kehler said during a meeting with reporters last week at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando. The new CONOP, built around SWAT-team-like tactical response forces, requires that these units be “far more mobile” than security forces in the past and capable of being transported around the missile complexes very quickly and “in larger numbers” than before, the general said. Before 9/11, the threat of terrorists wrestling control of a nuclear warhead from an ICBM was not at the forefront of people’s thinking, the general said. But in the wake of 9/11, “our security standards have actually increased” and the helicopter plays a larger role in protecting the ICBM fields, he said. AFSPC’s current Vietnam War-era UH-1N Huey helicopters lack the endurance, range, and speed needed to support the new scheme of operations and each Huey lacks the carrying capacity to haul a complete team. The Air Force provisionally calls the Huey’s successor the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform. It has been an unfunded requirement for years. However, USAF, for the first time, is requesting funding in Fiscal 2009 to start the CVLSP recapitalization program and enable its fielding in 2015. “We are now to the point that we need to make some decisions and move forward,” Kehler said. “What that new helicopter looks like I don’t really care.”