Entering Unchartered Territory

The Air Force’s Vietnam War-era UH-1N helicopter does not meet the requirements for protecting the nation’s ICBM fields and there are not enough of them to support the continuity-of-government mission in the nation’s capital, two headquarters-level generals told lawmakers. Yet, the Air Force is forced to take “a strategic pause” in Fiscal 2013 in its efforts to replace the Huey due to the defense-wide budget crunch, Maj. Gen. Robert Kane, director of global reach programs, and Maj. Gen. Noel Jones, director of operational capability requirements, told the House Armed Services Committee’s tacair panel Tuesday in joint testimony. During the recapitalization pause, the service will “explore more cost-effective strategies” to address UH-1 capability gaps, which include inadequate carrying capacity, speed, range, endurance, and survivability, they stated. For example, the service may give the Huey crashworthy seats and night all-weather capability, they said. Another option is increasing the fleet size by acquiring excess defense articles. To that end, the Air Force is already pursuing the transfer of up to 22 UH-1Ns from the Marine Corps, they stated. “In the long-term, the UH-1Ns are entering uncharted territory in terms of their age, much like the KC-135 fleet,” they wrote.