Chopper Forecast

The Air Force will decide how to go about replacing its UH-1N Huey nuclear site support helicopters and its HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue choppers “in the next year or so,” Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz forecast Tuesday. Such a timeline suggests that the decisions won’t happen in time for the Fiscal 2012 budget. Schwartz told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., that given the Air Force’s fiscal constraints, it’s exploring all options to buy new helicopters as inexpensively as possible. One option is to use the Economy Act, under which the Air Force would buy Black Hawk helicopters off of the Army’s active production line with Sikorsky, thereby skipping the expense and delay of conducting a competition. “We have not decided to do that,” said Schwartz. But “if your strategy is to procure a non-developmental item, or one that is minimally developmental,” then “it would be foolish for us not to consider the benefits of that approach,” he said. He added that “it only makes sense” to consider ways to lower the cost and speed the procurement of items that don’t involve a lot of groundbreaking technology.