Gates Hits Reset Button on CSAR-X

Among the victims of Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ program killing spree Monday was the Air Force’s combat search and rescue aircraft (dubbed CSAR-X), the planned replacement for the elderly HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter. The CSAR-X program has had until now a “troubled acquisition history,” Gates said during his press conference. He said, too, that there is a “fundamental question of whether this important mission can only be accomplished by yet another single-service solution, with a single-purpose aircraft.” Gates said DOD would take another look at the requirements behind the program and develop a more “sustainable approach” on a reboot of the effort. The relook would determine whether there is a requirement for a “specialized” CSAR aircraft or whether it should be a “joint capability,” he said. Before Gates’ announcement, the Air Force was poised to award the CSAR-X contract later this year, believing that it had resolved the issues that had derailed the original source-selection in November 2006. Gates comments echo the criticisms of outgoing DOD weapons czar John Young, who said last fall that he wouldn’t just “automatically rubber stamp” the CSAR-X requirement. (For more on Young’s questioning the CSAR-X requirement, read The John Young View.)